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Convention centre grant spurs questions in Brandon

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BRANDON -- An announcement for an $180-million expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre left supporters of Brandon's Keystone Centre wondering why western Manitoba's events centre had to settle for a smaller slice of the government pie.

Although 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 got $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 Brandon Coun. Garth Rice, a city representative 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 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 as the Keystone Centre was given a mandate by the leadership group to be self-sufficient without having the benefit of deficits 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 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 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 a barn for events such as the Canadian National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show.

Rice said the Keystone Centre's operations show it can be self-sufficient, but the capital needs are growing faster than the board's ability to pay.

 

kborkowsky@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2012 A11

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