City approves Keystone funding deal
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A fresh funding arrangement is expected to secure the Keystone Centre’s financial future while allowing staff to better plan for projects and growth.
According to the city, the new multi-year deal in which both the province and Brandon contribute funds, is expected to put the centre on the path to financial stability while ensuring critical improvements can be made when needed.
“As far as a long-term funding agreement is concerned, I would say this is big news,” Coun. Bruce Luebke (Ward 6) told the Sun on Tuesday. “I think it really recognizes, both by the province and the city, the importance of the Keystone Centre for our community. And, not only as an economic driver but also an event centre for our community to use for various sports and activities.”
Opened in 1972, the 540,000-square-foot facility hosts various events such as athletic competitions, trade shows, concerts and fairs.
The centre plays a key part in event-based tourism for the city, said a Brandon Tourism spokesperson, and stable funding ensures it will continue to draw events and visitors here.
“The Keystone Centre has always been a considerable tourism asset in the city, and it continues to be,” said Lanny Stewart, Brandon Tourism’s director of marketing and communications.
The city, province and Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba each have a one-third stake in the centre, although the city and province are 50/50 funders of the operation, with the exhibition having originally provided the land. The centre is run by Keystone Agricultural and Recreation Centre Inc.
City council approved its share of the agreement during its regular meeting on Monday, but the province has yet to formally announce its contribution.
The deal will see the city and the province each pay nearly $8 million in capital and operating funds to the Keystone Centre over the next five years. The city will continue to grant an additional payment equal to the property taxes paid by the Canad Inns, which was $120,000 in 2022.
At the council meeting, Luebke — who is also the board chair for the Keystone Centre — explained some of the city’s portion of the deal will be covered by existing funds in the form of debentures that will roll into capital payments, leaving the city to come up with $400,000 for each of the last four years of the agreement. He suggested a portion of the shortfall could be covered by accommodation tax funds.
Prior to this deal, the centre had been without a long-term funding arrangement since 2018-19, leaving it to secure funding on a year-to-year basis. Luebke said the new arrangement nearly triples the total operating and capital funding the centre would have received from the city and province had the old arrangement remained in place.
The new agreement comes after the province retained MNP Brandon to evaluate the centre’s financial stability in 2020. A city administration report to council states the new deal provides the ownership group and its operator with a “positive, go-forward financial plan.”
Luebke said the Keystone Centre will also look at new ways to increase revenues, and he expects the centre will have a five-year capital plan in place in late June.