City’s plans for golf course prompt questions about ski centre’s future

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This article was published 08/06/2011 (4202 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It may almost be summer, but cross-country skiing is on some Winnipeggers’ minds.

With Winnipeg’s city council voting in favour last month of contracting out the management of some city-run golf courses — including Windsor Park — avid skiers are wondering what could happen in the winter when the course is transformed into the Windsor Park Nordic Centre, considered by many to be the jewel of cross-country ski parks in the city.

The centre — which is managed by the Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba — offers groomed trails, instruction and equipment rentals.

Arielle Godbout Jean-Francois Ravenelle, president and general manager of Gord’s Ski and Bike, said the Windsor Park Nordic Centre presents some unique opportunities for city skiers.

According to Iain Day, chief operating officer of Winnipeg Golf Services, the city is currently in contract discussions with the ski association.

Once an agreement is in place, any contract for the management of Windsor Park would have to abide by the terms and conditions of the city’s contract with the ski association, Day said.

A city spokesperson stressed city council is not recommending the sale of Windsor Park.

However, an auditor’s report has suggested the city sell other municipal golf courses, and the ski association’s executive director said that possibility is a concern for her organization.

Karin McSherry explained the organization has had a year-to-year contract to manage the centre since 2005.

If the city were to sell the land, McSherry said there’s a concern the centre would cease to exist.

“The bottom line is if the city were to sell the golf course, and whoever bought it said, ‘No, no, no, we don’t want cross-country skiing,’ we would lose our home,” she explained.

While McSherry acknowledged that nothing is certain at this point, she said her organization hopes to speak with local councillors about the issue.

“We would hope whoever they sell the property to, it would be part of the contract” to continue the Nordic centre, McSherry explained.

If not, one of the best-loved spots for skiing in the city would be gone, she said, adding the Nordic centre serves everyone from families to recreational skiers to competitive athletes.

“It would be like shutting down a community centre,” she said. “We’re hoping that won’t happen.”

Jean-Francois Ravenelle, president and general manager of Gord’s Ski and Bike — which operates two locations on Donald Street and Kenaston Avenue — said the sale of Windsor Park would not kill off cross-country skiing in the city.

But it would be a significant loss, Ravenelle added, since the Nordic centre provides some unique opportunities to skiers in the city.

“What Windsor Park brings to the table a) is the ability to ski at night; and b) the skate skiing,” he said.

Skate skiing more closely resembles ice skating than classic cross-country skiing.

The Nordic centre is the only spot in the area with trails groomed for skate skiing, which Ravenelle described as a “niche” sport.

“If the city does sell the golf course, and someone doesn’t take over the ski centre, you will see one type of the sport disappear from the city landscape,” he said, adding that the sale of skate skiing equipment would drop off completely.

City council’s move to contract out the management of Windsor Park — along with the Crescent Drive and Kildonan Park golf courses — is in response to a city audit that found Winnipeg Golf Services is millions of dollars in debt and unlikely to be able to recover through the operation of the city’s golf courses.

arielle.godbout@canstarnews.com

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