September 25, 2018

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CN cites long history at The Forks for spending $750,000 to put its name on festival stage, field

The Canadian National Railway and The Forks have forged a new partnership that will see the festival stage at the popular tourist site carry the name of the rail giant and stalwart of the Canadian economy.

That honour came with a hefty price tag for CN, however, with the company handing over a cheque for $750,000 in exchange for the naming rights to the stage at the downtown hub — home to numerous events and celebrations throughout the year, including Canada Day and Pride Festival.

"Mayor (Brian) Bowman approached us to recognize the long-standing tradition of CN at The Forks. We’ve been here for 100 years," said Sean Finn, the railway's executive vice-president of corporate services.

"We’re very happy to be here at The Forks. Naming it the CN Stage and Field is an opportunity for us to recognize our long tradition here and obviously to celebrate in the future with the people of Winnipeg."

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The Canadian National Railway and The Forks have forged a new partnership that will see the festival stage at the popular tourist site carry the name of the rail giant and stalwart of the Canadian economy.

That honour came with a hefty price tag for CN, however, with the company handing over a cheque for $750,000 in exchange for the naming rights to the stage at the downtown hub — home to numerous events and celebrations throughout the year, including Canada Day and Pride Festival.

"Mayor (Brian) Bowman approached us to recognize the long-standing tradition of CN at The Forks. We’ve been here for 100 years," said Sean Finn, the railway's executive vice-president of corporate services.

"We’re very happy to be here at The Forks. Naming it the CN Stage and Field is an opportunity for us to recognize our long tradition here and obviously to celebrate in the future with the people of Winnipeg."

Scotiabank was the previous sponsor of the stage and field.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sean Finn, Executive vice-president at CN, during an announcement of a partnership with The Forks, a renaming of the stage, "CN Stage and Field," and a presentation of $750,000 towards future projects.

180907 - Friday, September 07, 2018.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Sean Finn, Executive vice-president at CN, during an announcement of a partnership with The Forks, a renaming of the stage, "CN Stage and Field," and a presentation of $750,000 towards future projects. 180907 - Friday, September 07, 2018.

Bowman and Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler entered Friday's renaming ceremony with CN officials in a miniature rail car.

CN's connection to the site stretches back to the early 1900s, when The Forks first emerged as an early and important hub for rail activity and development in the Prairies.

THE FORKS CEO ADDRESSES RESTAURANT CLOSURE

The Forks CEO Paul Jordan won’t confirm whether one of the site’s first restaurants is shuttering at the end of the month due to rent increases, as the owner contends.

“We don’t talk about these leases publicly, because they’re private. It’s right in the clause,” Jordan said.

The Forks CEO Paul Jordan won’t confirm whether one of the site’s first restaurants is shuttering at the end of the month due to rent increases, as the owner contends.

“We don’t talk about these leases publicly, because they’re private. It’s right in the clause,” Jordan said.

“But he’s been here for 20 years and things move along. It’s not 20 years ago and neither are the prices. I think it was just time. We’ve gone through many, many different restaurants over the years.”

On Thursday, one of the owners Doug Stephen told the Free Press a major reason for the restaurant’s closure was a stiff rent increase. He also hinted that building was set to be converted into office space.

In response to that statement, Jordan said he wasn’t sure where Stephen got that information from, but said it was much too early to say what would follow the barbecue joint.

“I don’t know where that came from. We haven’t even discussed it yet. It may not be a restaurant. Or it may be. I really don’t know. This has only just started to happen, because his lease was coming up and it was up to him whether he wanted to stay or go,” Jordan said.

The owners of Muddy Waters – WOW Hospitality Concepts – said the restaurant won’t reopen elsewhere.

There are about 10 restaurants at The Forks, including food court outlets, The Beachcomber, Old Spaghetti Factory and Pancake House.

Officials at The Forks haven't decided how the $750,000 will be spent, CEO Paul Jordan said.

"One thing is that we're looking at the field," he said. "But again, we're just getting started. This field was sod for the 1991 Western Canada Summer Games and all they really did was throw some sod down on the gravel. We have not done another thing since. So it might be that we renovate the field.

"Those are the kinds of things that we're just going to get started looking at. We haven't even designed the sign yet that will go up at the top of the stage. There will be a CN sign. But we've just gotten started; there will be lots of more announcements to make."

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman during an announcement of a partnership between CN and The Forks; a renaming of the stage, "CN Stage and Field," and a presentation of $750,000 from CN to The Forks towards future projects.

180907 - Friday, September 07, 2018.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman during an announcement of a partnership between CN and The Forks; a renaming of the stage, "CN Stage and Field," and a presentation of $750,000 from CN to The Forks towards future projects. 180907 - Friday, September 07, 2018.

On average each day, as many as 40 CN trains roll through The Forks — a national historic site that promotes its green footprint. Seven per cent of all CN cargo shipped in Manitoba last year was classified as "dangerous goods," the railway's statistics show.

That means on an average day, two or three trains carrying dangerous goods — crude oil, combustible liquids or other environmentally hazardous substances — are likely to travel through the site.

Finn said Winnipeggers have no reason to fear a rail "event" at The Forks.

"It's important that the City of Winnipeg, both the fire chief and anybody that's involved with first response, have access to an application called Ask Rail, in which they can enter the car number and understand the contents of the car. So the City of Winnipeg and first responders who must have that information to better prepare for an incident, that information is fully available to them," he said.

"It's not made public for security reasons, which is obvious. But rest assured that the great City of Winnipeg has the information, and more importantly, their first responders who would be called upon to intervene with us in the case of an event."

In addition to the newly renamed festival stage, evidence of CN's history at The Forks is visible through the company's mainline, which demarcates the western and northern boundaries of the site, as well as the refurbished rail car and caboose on display.

 

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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