An announcement of an $180-million expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre has left supporters of the Keystone Centre wondering why western Manitoba’s events centre had to settle for a smaller slice of the government pie.
While three levels of government recently pledged a combined $3.3 million for Keystone Centre renovations, if Brandon’s facility were to get a per capita share of the $180 million pledged for Winnipeg’s main convention hall, the Keystone Centre should have gotten $43 million, based on a trading area of 180,000 people.
"That’s a startling figure and that would solve a lot of the problems the Keystone Centre has," said Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre), one of the City of Brandon’s representatives on the Keystone Centre board. "I don’t necessarily feel shortchanged, but those figures speak to the fact that Winnipeg is the bigger centre and it gets catered to a lot more than the second city, which in this case is Brandon."
Even if Brandon’s civic population alone were considered, a per capita share of the $180 million would have garnered the Keystone Centre approximately $11 million.
Rice said those figures bolster the facility’s case to ask for more support, especially given that the Keystone Centre was given a mandate by the leadership group to be self-sufficient without having the benefit of deficits being covered by government.
"Hopefully the province realizes they are pouring a lot of money into things like the convention centre when Brandon very much has an active Keystone Centre that needs shoring up as well."
Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson said he paid close attention to the Winnipeg Convention Centre expansion plans that were announced earlier this week.
"We haven’t really applied for funding through the infrastructure program this year," Thomson said of the $3.3 million the centre did receive.
"These funds were made available because another project did not get completed. Obviously, the (Winnipeg Convention Centre) is getting a large expansion and the three levels of government participated in that. If we are going to look at some certain expansions, well we still have our roof repairs to go through in the new year."
The Keystone Centre board has discussed whether it can build a multi-purpose building that can serve as either an indoor soccer facility or as a barn for events such as the Canadian National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show.
"The ball park estimates for that soccer field house is approximately $15 million, so it would be similar to the investments about to be made in over there," Thomson said. "We’ll follow what our business plan lays out. Again, we want to ensure the facility and its repairs is being looked after. We certainly expect the various levels of government will support this facility."
Rice said the Keystone Centre’s operations, which more recently has included a push to get back into hosting concerts more regularly, show that it can be self-sufficient, but the capital needs are growing faster than the facility board’s ability to pay for them.
At this point, the focus for the centre has to be on spending the $3.3 million it just got, as there is a hard deadline of March 31 where the work must be done or the money is lost.
"Right after that, we will be right back to the leadership group for more capital needs, because the five-year capital needs we have are close to $10 million for the complex," Rice said.
"It’s a good argument to make when they have given that much to the (Winnipeg Convention Centre)."
The leadership group that operates the Keystone Centre includes the provincial government through the Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives department, the City of Brandon and the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.