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This article was published 18/4/2012 (3442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG - City council's executive policy committee has voted in favour of giving a private developer $7-million to build a water park and hotel complex on city land near The Forks.
In a unanimous Wednesday morning vote, EPC approved a plan for Alberta’s Canalta hotel chain to build a 50,000-square-foot water park, 250-room hotel and 450-stall parkade on a gravel parking lot known as Parcel Four. The 2.2-hectare site sits at the southwest corner of Waterfront Drive and William Stephenson Way, just south of Shaw Park, where the Goldeyes play.
The plan calls for Canalta to purchase the land from the city for $6 million and receive a $7-million grant in exchange for $700,000 worth of admission credits every year for the next 25 years.
Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert), Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo), Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) and Russ Wyatt (Transcona) voted in a favour of a plan they described as bringing a tremendous benefit to the city.
"This is something we should be celebrating," said Swandel, council’s deputy mayor.
Swandel and his EPC colleagues acknowledged the water-park plan has sparked criticism. Swandel and Fielding said Winnipeggers are notorious for dwelling on the negative, given the criticism of MTS Centre and Esplanade Riel before these amenities were built.
Before the vote, three non-EPC councillors appeared before the committee to express concerns about the water park’s size – it will be less than a quarter of the facility at West Edmonton Mall – its location near The Forks, an incomplete public access plan and the use of public funds to subsidize a private water park.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said council should hold off on approving the plan for 60 days and examine whether the water park could be larger and located elsewhere in the city.
Mayes also called the public-access agreement "convoluted and unworkable" since residents won't be able to use vouchers on holidays and long weekends.
Clive Wightman, the city's community services director, told EPC he could not discuss details of the public-access agreement until Winnipeg signs off on the deal with Canalta. He said the key is to make sure disadvantaged Winnipeggers have a chance to visit the facility.
Wightman said there are very few blackout days and there's a minimum of 335 days available for vouchers a year. He said the blackout dates are needed in part for facility maintenance.
Mayes also said he could see a hotel or parkade at the site, but Winnipeg should not cram a water park into that location. "If we're going to have a destination location it probably needs to be bigger than the water park we're looking at," he said.
In a slightly heated exchange, Swandel said he did not understand the argument and asked whether Mayes was in support of amenities that serve low-income people.
Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) told EPC that he doesn't think Winnipeg needs to subsidize a water park. He said Winnipeg should market Parcel Four to get the best price possible and allow the private sector to compete in the process.
River Heights Coun. John Orlikow argued the city should scrap the plan altogether and redistribute $7 million of recreation funds on projects such as splash pads, in city wards. He questioned the notion a water park is a core service when city pools, hockey rinks and community centres are in need of infrastructure funding.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, the majority owner of the Goldeyes, recused himself from voting on the water park deal and said he will also not vote on the plan when it comes before council on April 25.
After the meeting, Katz reiterated the plan will have a detrimental impact on the Goldeyes by removing parking from the area – and a detrimental effect poses a conflict of interest.
Katz said he decided to recuse on Tuesday after he received independent legal advice. On Monday, he told a radio station he intended to vote.