Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/31/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
The Red River Exhibition Association wants to take over Assiniboia Downs but its sporting aspirations aren't limited to horse racing.
Garth Rogerson, CEO of the RREA, said with 194 hectares at its disposal at the western outskirts of town, the development possibilities are virtually limitless.
He'd like to present a multitude of different events, including concerts and monster truck shows, with horse racing adding to the entertainment options.
He wants to work with neighbouring property owners, including the Chipman family, which owns the MTS Iceplex, to build facilities that will benefit the entire community.
"The Iceplex is so successful. Maybe we could partner up with them to expand to two more ice surfaces. We could build it on to the end of the (Iceplex) parking lot," he said.
It's no secret Winnipeg has a large network of beaten-up arenas that are beyond their expiry dates because there isn't the public money to replace them.
The RREA plan could reduce the province's annual subsidy to the horse-racing industry from $10 million to $5 million. With the province projecting a $567-million shortfall for the end of this fiscal year (March 31), such a proposal has caught the eye of Finance Minister Stan Struthers.
The Selinger government has committed to balancing the province's books by 2016 and he realizes it's not going to get there with a nickel-and-dime strategy. When asked if he'd be looking at reducing expenses by at least $100 million in the upcoming year, he replied "probably."
"It's rare you get the chance to expand a facility, improve its use, grow the economy and at the same time, reduce the burden on Manitoba taxpayers," he said.
"We're going to work with the Red River Exhibition to make sure we give this plan every chance to succeed."
The fly in the ointment is the Manitoba Jockey Club, which has run racetrack for 20 years and needs to agree to the plan. That's going to be a tough sell with Harvey Warner, president of the MJC, who feels the province and RREA have been negotiating behind closed doors.
If Rogerson is given the go-ahead -- or if another plan from another party is brought forward and approved -- it will continue the remarkable transformation of a part of town that was little more than empty fields just a few short years ago.
The Iceplex, which attracts hundreds of hockey players per day to its four rinks and the Pointe West Autopark just a few hundred metres to the south, have become a destination location all on their own.
And things are only going to get busier. This spring, Shindico Realty will begin preliminary work on Westport Festival, a 600,000-square-foot commercial development just west of the Perimeter Highway. Construction will follow in the fall with a string of ribbon cuttings expected in the spring of 2013.
John Pearson, a commercial broker/developer and retail specialist with Shindico Realty Inc., said he is currently in discussions with numerous potential tenants, including hotels, restaurants and retailers, but he won't divulge any names until the deals are signed. Just because it's a little out of the way for many Winnipeggers doesn't diminish the potential for the area, Pearson said.
"There's no greater concentration of entertainment and recreation anywhere else in the province when you combine horse racing, the Iceplex, the Blumberg golf courses, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, hotels, 16 automobile brands. The whole area is already a very established attraction," he said.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2013 A4
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Police seek girls, 11 and 14, last seen Thursday
Bipole III the 'biggest boondoggle in Manitoba history': Pallister
City paramedics take special Ebola precautions four times
Man missing in Pembina Valley Provincial Park
'Growler bars' for draft beer now in Manitoba
Inquests called into prison deaths
Missing girl, 16, believed to be travelling west
City police checking in on kids' hockey this winter
Warm today, but chance of flurries next week
First Nation brings Hydro protest to HQ
Selinger says he and Bowman share several priorities
Bowman has chance to take city forward
Ouellette's star still on the rise
Missing boy found safe
Trucking firm's kindness going to the dogs
Result shocks Bowman
Heartwarming pooch play at school
'Nobody's going to believe her': defence lawyer on accused in dead infants case
UFC-style fight led to death
Fletcher told caregiver to run for it, if she could
Fired principal elected to board
Winnipeg data a factor in developing vaccine
Imams urged to spot hallmarks of radicals
Former deputy chief takes reins in East. St. Paul