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This article was published 7/12/2020 (289 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A city-operated arena that previously closed due to mould issues could soon get a new, third-party operator.
The City of Winnipeg has issued a request for proposal that seeks someone to manage, operate and maintain the publicly owned Terry Sawchuk Memorial Arena. The city recently spent $125,000 to rid the 901 Kimberly Ave. facility of mould, a problem that forced the rink to shut down for the 2019/20 season. It reopened this September, prior to a recent pandemic shutdown.
The RFP notes the city is looking for a business or non-profit organization to run the site under a long-term lease, with proposals due by March 31, 2021.
"The goal here is to find a financially viable way to keep the Sawchuk arena as an amenity for our community," said Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), council’s economic development chairperson.
The RFP calls for bidders to propose a rent amount and desired lease length, while also listing any investments they’d make in the site.
Bidders are also urged to provide "evidence of financial capability to operate and manage the facility without (a) City of Winnipeg subsidy or grant," which Browaty said would be the city’s best-case scenario.
If that’s not possible, the councillor said the city hopes to at least reduce its operating costs.
"I think providing arenas is an important city service. If we can reduce the mill rate support (that’s even better)," said Browaty.
In 2018, when the arena did operate for a full season, the city raised $191,747 in revenue and paid $330,584 in expenses at the site, Browaty noted.
Coun. Shawn Nason (Transcona) urged the city to consult nearby community centres, such as Valley Gardens, before approving a proposal.
Nason said the city must also consider the site within a broader assessment of all city rinks.
"My concern is that it’s a public asset. We still don’t know what the rationalization (will be) in regards to our assets in the City of Winnipeg," he said.
The city is currently working on a plan to rationalize city-owned and/or leased buildings, which may lead some properties to be sold.
Terry Sawchuk arena is home to the River East Royal Knights junior hockey team, whose president says he hasn’t ruled out submitting a bid to operate it.
"I don’t know if I want to take on a new challenge at this stage… I haven’t ruled it out either, until I get more details and figure out exactly what’s involved," said Barry Bonni.
However, Bonni was critical of the city’s effort to shift the arena’s operations to a third party.
"This is just another example of the city trying to unload one of their responsibilities," he said.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.