Brandon’s major events venue managed to run a surplus last year with a little help from the federal and provincial governments.
The Keystone Centre, which has had to cancel and restrict a lot of events during the COVID-19 pandemic, recorded a surplus of $181,785 in its 2021 fiscal year according to financial documents presented at its annual general meeting Thursday night.
That’s a modest increase from the $22,881 surplus the facility posted in 2020.
Of the nearly $3 million in revenues the Keystone pulled in over its last fiscal year, $1,195,315 was from the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and another $20,000 from the Manitoba Bridge Grant program.
That revenue total is down considerably from the $5,569,641 the venue collected in 2020.
"To say the impact of the pandemic on the Keystone Centre would be an understatement," said Coun. Bruce Luebke (South Centre), the chair of the facility’s board of directors. "I’m very proud of ... CEO and [general manager] Jeff Schumacher and our management team and staff and how they had to navigate through the pandemic, and I wish to thank them for their continued efforts."
Though small, that surplus is going to be needed to help cover costs in 2021 as government support programs get phased out, BDO’s Todd Birkhan and the centre’s director of finance Chris Cels told those attending the virtual meeting.
With Schumacher unable to make Thursday’s meeting, Cels and assistant general manager Connie Lawrence teamed up to deliver a report on behalf of management.
The story of 2021 for the Keystone Centre as told by them was filled with roadblocks and challenges. As events were cancelled, advertising and sponsorship money dried out, not to mention a lack of concessions sales.
This was especially disappointing, Cels said, after it initially looked like things might start to return to normal or at least open up a little.
"The Wheat Kings moved to Regina as a hub city for the season, the Provincial Exhibition was unable to host any of their events, and youth hockey was cancelled only a few weeks into the season," Lawrence said. "Ultimately, like so many other businesses and organization, the Keystone Centre reluctantly adapted to operating in a COVID world with ever-changing protocols."
"As an event-focused business, fiscal 2021 was disheartening," Cels said.
Given the continuing situation with COVID-19, Cels said the picture for hosting events remains bleak.
Contributing to an uncertain financial future for the Keystone Centre is the lack of a long-term funding agreement with the province.
According to Luebke, the results of a $150,000 study, announced by former municipal relations minister Rochelle Squires in July 2020, aimed at identifying necessary capital projects for the facility and help it attract major events, have yet to be provided to the Keystone Centre.
"We have had limited ability to undertake necessary and outstanding projects to manage the increasing costs of operating our 540,000-square-foot facility," Luebke said.
Some of those increasing costs include rising insurance, carbon tax, electrical and natural gas prices.
Despite the challenges, Cels and Lawrence highlighted some accomplishments the centre has either completed or is on track to complete.
Grants worth $129,462 from the provincial and federal governments allowed the facility to replace the roof over the Manitoba Room and some adjoining hallways. New pavilions were added to the green space outside the centre as well as a new outdoor tent space.
The centre completed the installation of new NHL-approved boards and glass around the ice surface in Westoba Place while new Wheat Kings team owners J&G Group renovated several team-related areas. Several areas have had new, more energy-efficient lights installed thanks to a grant from Manitoba Hydro.
The centre’s most consistent tenant over the last year, the vaccination supersite in the Manitoba Room, has extended its contract with the facility and will be there until at least December of this year.
Joining the meeting was Mayor Rick Chrest, who offered his compliments to the Keystone's board and staff for keeping the venue afloat during the pandemic.
At the meeting, it was announced that Lori Rodych, Jeff Cristall and Tanya LaBuick are departing the centre's board of directors.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark