Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grand Beach concert site stalled again

Title delay, policing costs blamed

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Talk of lawsuits and conspiracies has replaced the sound of music as a cottage-country concert development lies in disarray.

The Grand Beach Entertainment Centre has cancelled plans to hold a rock concert during the August long weekend, putting off its grand opening for the third time.

One of the principal investors blames "government plodding and RCMP overcharging," the other has resigned for health reasons and the municipality that approved the venture may sue the Manitoba government over the release of land titles for the concert and campground site.

"(I'm) starting to wonder if there's some kind of conspiracy afoot," said Lawrence Hadiken, president of the $6.1-million, 550-hectare development on a forested hillside in the Rural Municipality of Alexander. "It's the government's screw-up."

Originally, the Grand Beach Entertainment Centre was supposed to open during the May long weekend, but a concert lineup was never announced. Then in June, a three-day rock festival was cancelled because on-site facilities weren't ready, said investor Walter Chomichuk, who later resigned from the project due to "health and family concerns."

According to Hadiken, the latest cancellation stems from a confusing financial mess involving a bank loan dependent on the release of two land titles from the provincial government. The RM of Alexander, which sold the land to the entertainment centre, has been waiting for the paperwork since January.

Now, it's considering a lawsuit against Manitoba Conservation.

"We have been continuously stalled by the lands branch," municipality lawyer Orvel Currie said. "We're not getting any explanation from the province."

The lands branch official in Neepawa responsible for the titles could not be reached for comment.

Hadiken also blasted the RCMP for what he claims is an excessive estimate for police services for the concert site -- $42,000 per weekend.

But the Grand Beach Entertainment Centre actually agreed to this figure more than a year ago, said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Steve Saunders.

"This isn't just one police officer standing on the highway, waving traffic in and out of the festival," said Saunders, referring to the intersection of Highway 59 and Provincial Road 102 North. "We're providing for the safety of the entire cottage area."

A Winnipeg concert promoter who used to be associated with the centre said its problems are bigger than land titles and policing costs.

Sam Katz of Showtime Productions, who helped run the successful Sunfest concerts near Gimli during the '90s, pulled out of the project in March.

"I think the site is fantastic, but there are a lot more things to worry about," he said, referring to everything from sanitation to security to live entertainment.

The centre also faces criticism from environmentalists, who are upset developers cut down at least 97 hectares of forest for a concert site which remains unused.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2002 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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