Volunteers build a temporary extension onto the outdoor stage facility at the Keystone Centre for a past Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival. Funding from the city’s accommodation tax could transform the stage area, which Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson calls “atrocious.”
Additional funding from the city’s accommodation tax could help increase the amount of arts and cultural events in the Wheat City.
The accommodation tax generates revenue to support event acquisition, event retention, as well as capital repairs and upgrade initiatives.
Through the establishment of the accommodation tax bylaw, all proceeds from the tax are invested into growing existing events and attracting new ones.
But as it sits now, it’s difficult for event facilities to access funding unless it’s for a specific event, according to Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond).
"The capital side is one that hasn’t really been utilized on the accommodation tax," Montague said. "We want to make it so facilities in Brandon are further improved and our hosting capabilities for future events are strengthened, which then puts more heads in beds and makes Brandon more of a tourist facility.
"Currently there’s no means to put money into a facility without an event."
Montague said a majority of councillors are in favour of enhancing Brandon’s tourism initiatives, such as heritage sites and areas that could be used to host more arts and cultural events. He added that council will have an opportunity to review and discuss how the accommodation tax is distributed in the new year.
"Arts, culture and heritage typically have a tougher time finding funding pockets to go to," Montague said. "Brandon does a fantastic job hosting events. We know we’re known for that, but we if we don’t have the facilities to match them and the drive of our residents to put on a good show, then we’re going to fall behind."
Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson said the organization is always open to welcoming additional funding to enhance its facility, both indoors and outdoors.
As part of its five-year plan for regular capital upgrades, Thomson said improvements to the building’s entrances and outdoor stage area are among the priorities.
"That stage area is pretty atrocious. It doesn’t even have a proper cover on it," Thomson said. "The folk festival needs to kind of move up in time a little bit and build a bit more capacity into that area. I think it would be a good investment."
Enhancements to the stage and surrounding area could also transform it into a "multipurpose entertainment outdoor area," Thomson said.
"With Brandon and its history of putting on plays ... there’s a lot of potential events that could be hosted in that area," he said.
Supplying entertainment facilities with additional funding would also help make the city a stronger competitor, Montague said.
"When you’re competing against much bigger centres for events, you want to keep your facilities top-notch," Montague said. "If we can keep our facilities top-notch, we can prove we’re competitive."
A $10,000 grant was approved by council during Monday’s meeting for the Brandon and Area Planning District to host the 2014 Manitoba Planning Conference on Feb. 26-28. Funds will be transferred from the accommodation tax reserve to the tourism initiatives operating account.
The organization will receive $4,000 up front, and upon the receipt of a final report, the remaining $6,000.
Historically, the event was hosted in various communities across Manitoba, but in recent years has alternated between Brandon and Winnipeg.
The event is projected to generate 440 overnight stays, a 10 per cent growth from previous years.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 19, 2013