Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/7/2012 (3291 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Plenty can be said for the great work we have done in the past making the city of Brandon an interesting visit or a place to bring the family as a diversion from work, as a holiday or a day trip from one of the various smaller communities that neighbour this great city.
We have all the comforts of home. Within a short drive in any direction, there are restaurants, nightlife, family-friendly events or sports. They all have their place in this community.
But I ask, what makes Brandon a destination? What could we do as citizens or developers in working with the proactive city staff to have people from larger centres like Winnipeg and Regina say "I want to come to Brandon"?
Interesting question and one not easily solved through investment of money or application of time. There must be a community buy in.
If you would humour me for a moment, let’s do a bit of wandering in our minds.
Think of the town of Wisconsin Dells, Wis., by a recent United States census just a little over 3,000 permanent residents. The Dells boasts an annual tourist draw of close to five million visitors realizing, of course, it is nestled within the trading area of cities like Green Bay and Chicago.
They have a natural topography and a somewhat milder climate that does help the draw but, by all accounts, could be any community similar to a Virden or a Portage la Prairie.
The Dells dub themselves as the "world waterpark capital" and have both inside and outside resorts with accommodations on site as well as various options for families. The town has embraced the influx of tourists (and plenty of Canadians) as the spinoff for the local economy and it has had an enormous effect, being the main economic driver for the area.
On a much, much smaller scale, how many times in a summer has your family driven to Souris or Portage la Prairie to visit the pools there? Think of the effect that has had there and multiply it many times.
Now in Brandon’s case, I do realize a trading area like Winnipeg does not rival the population of Chicago, but it does make Green Bay look small. Throw in places like Regina and Saskatoon and we are getting closer to an even play in the population game when looking at a modified trading area.
I ask you now, could Brandon become the waterpark capital of the north? If you consider the number of people who will travel hours to get to a destination like Wisconsin Dells, the similar weather patterns and proximity to larger centres, it may not be that far out of the question.
As Canadians, we are blessed with a more readily available access to land and with the right development and the proper planning, who is saying we couldn’t make this city a world-class destination through dreaming big.
The City of Brandon staff are doing great work on their end through various incentives and programs, now we need a developer with an eye for opportunity to pull up to the table.
A water park is just one example of a possible vehicle for change and a strong driver putting Brandon on a national stage. In May, it was in the news that Winnipeg had turned down a water park development at The Forks due to a myriad of questions of the developer Canalta Hotels and a group called Waterfun Products.
At that point the developer withdrew the proposal. I’m not saying the Canalta pitch is the answer for Brandon but it does raise some interesting possibilities moving forward when you realize the lengths people will travel to visit destinations like this.
Now where do I buy a season pass?