Saturday, August 18, 2018

Main Street Winnipeg in 1949

Photo courtesy of the University of Winnipeg Archives. In 1949 it was proper to have a hat and to step inside the protection of the bollards when getting picked up by a street car on Main Street just beyond Portage.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Old Pictures of The Bay Downtown

Taken in 1930 from the air, The Bay was very prominent in the city. A surface parking can be seen at the rear. Eventually an Imperial gas station would be on the near corner.

Also pictures from 1930, angled parking right outside the doors of HBC. Awnings because no air conditioning. It got hot inside.

The picture is after 1932 because that was the year the Winnipeg Auditorium was built. Hard to tell what year but angled parking remains on Portage Avenue at this time. The Winnipeg Art Gallery is decades away and even the Mall Medical building has not been built. That would come in 1947. A gas station can be seen in the narrow corner future art gallery. Believe it was a British American gas station.

This was the Bay parking lot in the 1940s.

By 1947, the Mall Medical was built across the street and the parking lot had an Imperial Gas station. In Memorial Park of the future, the University of Manitoba science faculty is seen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Portage and Main 1970s

In 1976 just ahead of the demolitions that lead to the building of the Trizec building across the street (You can see Wilson's Furniture peaking out), parking on Portage Avenue East beside the Bank of Montreal and Richardson building was permitted.

You can see parking meters across the street and a bus stop by the Bank of Montreal building.

Parking your muscle car right by the Richardson building just like Steve McQueen was possible.

Winnipeg has grown quite a bit but we will be seeing a significant amount of building on or near the intersection including the tallest building in the city this year and next. How people move about on this intersection and throughout the downtown needs to be examined.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Fast Fired By Carbone Coming to Charleswood

March 2018, Fast Fired by Carbone Opened Brandon
The former Subway in old Charleswood closed and paper in the windows indicates that a new restaurant is soon to open. Fast Fired by Carbone is slated to open in the fall of 2018. The newly branded restaurant was formerly known as Carbone Coal Fired Pizza and had locations in River Heights and downtown.

Under their new brand name they opened a 1243 square foot location at the Coral Centre in Brandon, Manitoba to great fanfare in March. They show little signs of slowing down. In addition to the location being built on Roblin in Charleswood, they are working on a 1523 foot location in Sage Creek at Sage Creek Village North. There is also a new pad site of 1500 square feet at Kildonan Place being built. And lastly, at 201 Portage in the RBC building, a 313 square foot location is being built in the food court.

The Charleswood location will be 1290 square feet in the Morningwood Center. It is the first time I've heard that name used in the complex that also holds a Starbucks and the Capital restaurant. Subway had been the only survivor of a previous renovation that ended the tenure of Robin's and KFC.

Fast Fired by Carbone specializes in fare such as pizza and wings that are cooked in coal fired ovens imported into Canada. By the end of the year the restaurant,  founded in 2014, will have doubled in size from the present four location to eight. It is unlikely they will stay at the number given the interest in franchising the concept.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Lot 88 Steakhouse and Bar to Open on Pembina

Steakhouses are staking out Winnipeg. In the last weeks Mr. Mike's SteakhouseCasual has opened on Kenaston and coming on the heels of that, Lot 88 Steakhouse and Bar announced they were coming to Pembina Highway.

In September, Lot 88 will take over the former Barley Brother's location that recently closed at 2005 Pembina Highway near the University of Manitoba. It is a large building of 6,900 square feet with a patio as well. The owners of the steakhouse approached Barley Brothers even though the site was not on the market. It was fortuitous as the owners there were about to receive a court ordered bill of $475,000 from their former location on Empress which closed 18 months ago.

Timing is everything and Barley Brothers accepted the offer and Lot 88 will open in September in time for the Banjo Bowl and the Bombers presumably. This will be third restaurant at the spot with Earls being the first. A steakhouse might be a good choice since there has not been a good one since The Keg relocated their location near the McGillivary and Pembina years ago. Go back even further and some cheap steak places like Mr. Steak and Ponderosa along Pembina.

Lot 88 will be a fine dining steakhouse. It brings a new concept of cooking your own steak at your table using a volcanic stone. It will be an interesting concept. It will certainly give other steakhouses competition .

The restaurant business is fierce. Much of it has turned to sports and grill formats. Flat screen TVs tuned to sports has changed the business. No longer is a restaurant/bar limited to a picture tube TV mounted in a box or a large blurry projection screen TV. They are ubiquitous. Still, a lot of people still love a place that has big booth, great food and are all about the atmosphere. Lot 88 will probably hit it off with them.

Pembina is a high traffic area and the location near Investor's Group field and the University of Manitoba should give it a spot on location. It will be interesting to hear what their lined up customers will think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The End of the Cement Plant

July 2017

It has been a fixture on Kenaston for more than 50 years. The Inland Cement plant was constructed in 1963 and completed in 1965. In a few more weeks the large buildings responsible for build Portland cement  (a type of concrete) will be gone forever. City Mix continues to operate in adjacent buildings and cement is made in a building by a rail spur line by Inland Lehigh.

The location of the cement plant was no accident as nearby clay was quarried from what is now the Fort Whyte lakes. From 1913 to 1992 clay was dug up and holes left that were 60 feet deep. Things slows by late 1980s and by 1994 the Kenaston plant and cement/quarry site near present-day Forth Whyte shut down.

The quarry site is a distribution center now with several buildings and rail connections. The Kenaston plant has sat empty since 1994 although cement trucks continue to come to the next door Lehigh plant. Several Canadian and Hollywood production companies have filmed in the cavernous building over the years including last year. It lent itself to a horror or dystopian future milieu.

Until the 1980s Kenaston was a two lane road primarily built to go to the cement plant and rail yards. Linden Woods was not yet built and held the Van Wellingham dairy farm. Driving down Waverley, there was an unobstructed view all the way west to Kenaston, the cement plants and beyond.

The cement plant will soon be gone as will the Kapyong Barracks which are rapidly being torn down. Rumours about about what will go where the cement plant is. Easiest would more offices for the Terracon Business Park but there has also been talk of restaurants and a hotel to take advantage of proximity to IKEA.

Industrial buildings are never architectural gems, especially ones abandoned and spray painted. It does mark the end of an area for a building that represents what Kenaston used to be: an industrial service road. It has grown to much more and the plant's demolition was inevitable. Still, when you drive by, remember that the land used for cement was tomorrow's gift as Fort Whyte and for one of Winnipeg's biggest commercial roads.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Jekyll and Hyde's and Barley Brothers Suddenly Close

Over the last few days two restaurants in different parts of the city closed suddenly. Barley Brothers shuttered their Pembina Highway location in the middle of the weekend. They took down all their website as well. The reasons for Barley Brothers ending their run probably has a lot to do with a judge deciding the owners were on the hook for something under $500,000 for their former Empress location near Polo Park.

The Barley Brothers location on Pembina was the former site of Earls. They had closed the location after opening their St. Vital restaurant. The proximity to Pembina proved fatal to that location. In truth, despite its location near the Blue Bomber stadium, Barley Brothers is kind of awkwardly placed. In the middle of all the turn-offs for Bishop Grandin, it can be intimidating to some to access it.

The size of some restaurants can be its downfall. There are now several smaller joints out there that probably have higher margins. If even Earls had a hard time maintaining that location, imagine what it was like for a local ownership group. Plus having debt for the old Barley Brothers location was no help.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the abandoned Pembina location of Barley Brothers. I expect the size of the place will be an obstacle to any but the most intrepid types. Perhaps with both football and soccer in place by next year at Investor's Group Field, someone would see the place as ideal. Not to mention the large University of Manitoba and Pembina traffic flows.

The reason for Jekyll and Hyde's demise is due to a new property owner who is turning the space into three retail spots. In fairness, the old owner had not upgraded the site for many years. Still, this displacement seemed sudden. An auction was to take place Sunday but was cancelled. Very likely some bills to paid here before we see everything sold.

The restaurant business is a tough one. The trend recently as been to grills, sports bars and beers on tap. Osborne Village has seen a lot of business change in the last while. A transition has been taking place on Osborne. Long time landlords and retailers are closing or selling. Some are holding land and reluctant to subdivide or improve which has led to some people moving or simply shutting down.

The Osborne Village Inn remains a question mark but a few other places have been leased out. The cannabis stores are likely going to be in a few places on the street. They can likely afford the high rent. New housing is springing up all along each street in the area. The next incarnation of the village is probably progressing as we speak. Affordable housing and retail space though is quickly disappearing. As for restaurants in Osborne, I think we can expect to see less.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Osborne Bridge Pictures

Headed to the Village pre-1910. Wood bridge, dirt roads.
Headed to Village in 1910. What in tarnation? A steel and concrete bridge?

Friday, June 22, 2018

South Landing Business Park Lands The Rink

This is a good new story and a bad news story.

The good news is that The Rink presently located just off Kenaston in a leased building is moving to McGillivary and Loudon down the road from Costco. The land they are moving to will be owned by them.

What will be coming is a privately funded $20 million 95,000 square facility with three rinks and offices and lecture rooms for up to 60 staff. The NHL-sized rink will have room for 700 people to watch. The principals of the Rink are retired NHL player Mike Keane with Brad Rice, Tyler Rice and Tina Jones. They started the company in 2009 and by 2012 expanded it to be the training academy for Pembina Trails School Division and Shaftesbury High School.

There will be retail related to hockey inside, a gym, a track, a specialized training rink and a goalie rink, The present location already attracts people from all over Manitoba and beyond. The new facility which is unlike any other could attract students from even greater distances.

This is very good news except for one fact. The facility is just outside Winnipeg's boundary. I don't blame the The Rink for their decision. They get a purpose built facility that they own close to where they are now and they don't don't pay Winnipeg business taxes.

The Rural Municipality of MacDonald has allowed the South Landing Business Park to set up as an ex-urban development primarily to service Winnipeg and to add to their own tax base. The Rink won't be alone at South Landing. They will join De Luca's International that outgrew their 12,000 square foot facility on McPhillips and their 10,000 square foot coffee processing site in Teulon. The new facility is 38,000 square feet for production and distribution and has a 8,000 square foot retail store. The original sprawling store and school on Portage Avenue remains where it has been since 1968. There are 17 employees working for De Luca at South Landing

Good news and bad news. The good being expanding businesses. The bad news just outside Winnipeg but adding to traffic on a business McGillivary with a future traffic light just to make it even more attractive to development.

I have no doubt that the old Rink location and De Luca's will find new businesses to take over them but the city sprawl continues apace. There is no green belt around the city. No natural boundary line such as a ocean or mountains to limit things.

No denying these businesses do a lot for all of us but they are not inside the city proper anymore. The costs of South Landing doing well is likely traffic at McGillvary and Kenaston rising. We've had pedestrian die there last year.

Good news and bad news.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hyatt Place Coming to Downtown Winnipeg

Hyatt Place through its Toronto developers has announced that downtown Winnipeg will see a historic building converted into a hotel at 138 Portage Avenue. It is just down the street from the Fairmont Hotel and Richardson Building on Portage Avenue East.

The Hyatt Place Hotel will build atop and on the eastern side of the 1909 Keewayden Block (Jacob Crowley Building), a Chicago-style warehouse building that has housed a number of businesses but hosted garment industry related businesses for decades.

The building is immediately behind the BellMTS buldings and surrounded by parking lots, some used by the telecom.

The views towards The Forks should prove amazing and the just down the street is Shaw Park and Portage and Main.

Parking should not be a problem as the building is surrounded by parking lots and may in fact have allotted spaces for itself already. It has been pointed out that entrance and exits might be interesting for hotel guests using hotel shuttle, taxis or rentals. People familiar with the Fairmont Hotel can attest to the entrance there which has its challenges.

Hyatt Place is not a big hotel. It caters to business people in town and will likely have use of being centrally located or near airports. In some ways, this add on to an old building has the feel of red River College and their Princess campus which incorporated the facades of old buildings. In this case, the shell and bones of the old building will be the foundation of the new one.

It is difficult to find fault with this business when the alternative in many cases has been the bulldoze older buildings for ever greater parking. I think it can aptly be shown there is a ton of parking surrounding this new hotel. The establishment is small enough to imagine that it will not generate need the car traffic of its neighbour to the west at the Fairmont which hosts ballroom events as well as meetings regularly.

This Hyatt will be under construction at the same time as differently branded Hyatt rises up in Seasons of Tuxedo in front of Cabela's. A crane is already on site and foundation is being laid.

There was some doubt about the amount of hotels being built in the city but recent occupancy rates have suggested that trade show and business travel remains strong. Tourism has been steady as well. Hyatt Place should be a welcome addition to downtown Winnipeg.

Monday, June 4, 2018

King of Donair Coming to Winnipeg

It has been reported the Halifax-based King of Donair restaurant group will be coming to Winnipeg soon.

Sooo, you ask: What is Donair? Well, it was invented by Greek restaurateur Peter Gamoulakis in the 1970s in Nova Scotia and is their spin on gyros.  It is a Turkish doner kebab of spicy meat served on Lebanese flatbread with a special sauce that is known in Halifax as "donair." In 2015, Halifax listed as the official food of Halifax. In 1973 the King of Donair restaurant was opened and the city now has four of them.

Edmonton will be the home to the first one in the west and a pop-up KOD opened in Calgary and had line-ups for 4-6 hours when it did. Winnipeg is on their list if western Canadian cities that they will be opening in.

Greek families in Canada have had a reputation of been hard working, entrepreneurial and in the food business. In Winnipeg there are many Greek-owned family restaurants and even one that serves donair. Across the west are many former Maritimers and they are likely to remember KOD fondly but the popularity already of gyros by Manitobans should make King of Donair popular.

No word yet on when and where they be opening but watch for an announcement.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Summer of Sports

Wish this:

And this:

And this were all going on this week.

So amazing when baseball, football and hockey are on all the same time in Winnipeg. Alas, we will have to wait till fall to to get them all back together again.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Winnipeg Radio Ratings Spring 2018

Spring 2018 radio ratings

(previous rating period in brackets)
  1. CBC Radio One — 14.2 (14.2)
  2. 680 CJOB — 10.9 (11.2)
  3. QX 104 — 10.3 (8.1)
  4. 92.1 CITI — 5.9 (6.5)
  5. 99.9 BOB FM — 5.7 (6.3)
  6. 103.1 Virgin Radio — 5.5 (7.3)
  7. TSN Radio 1290 — 5.4 (3.3)
  8. 94.3 The Drive — 5.2 (6.6)
  9. KiSS 102.3 — 4.3 (4.5)
  10. Energy 106 — 4.0 (4.8)
  11. Power 97 —  3.5 (4.4)
  12. Peggy @ 99.1 — 3.2 (2.1)
  13. CBC Radio 2 — 3.1 (4.1)
  14. Hot 100.5 — 1.6 (2.2)
  15. Now Country 104.7 — 0.4 (0.4)
  16. Radio-Canada Espace Musique — 0.1 (0.1)
CBC Radio One continues to dominate Winnipeg's radio market according to the Spring radio ratings book. For the last number of years CBC has held this commanding position ever since it surpassed CJOB. The two primarily talk based stations rank 1 and 2 with 680 CJOB slipping from their last ratings period.

The station that took a big jump was TSN Radio 1290 and the reason for that is probably the long run of the Winnipeg Jets into the play-offs. It was enough to elevate the station to the heady territory of 7th place on the list.

The highest rated FM music station is QX 104. Country music remains strong with women and has gained ground against the classic and rock stations in the city. They have taken number 3 on the dial while 92.1 CITI and 99.9 Bob FM have 4th and 5th. New popular music station 103.1 Virgin too had a big drop.

Only two music FM radio stations had gains in this period, That was QX 104 and Peggy @ 99.1 which features adult contemporary such as 1980s pop to more recent releases. A few other stations chase that dynamic and it is hard to appear different to competitors.

It is difficult to know if the latest book will trigger firings and format changes. The importance of having the right on air talent and content seems to escape the tall foreheads elsewhere who react to these things. A little luck helps too. TSN floated upward on Jets coverage. 

People still love their talk and music and don't mind curated stations but it better be delivered through apps, Google Home, Alexa and on satellite. They want to visit the websites, enter contests and see their DJS at events or online.

Today's programmers need to get their signal on every device there is and not be surprised when people are listening and responding from all over the world. And somehow that reach has to be measured and sold to advertisers.

I have said often enough here that if CJOB wants to take back number 1, they have to offer a FM signal as well as a AM signal. They locked up Winnipeg Blue Bomber football which helped them last year. If they are not looking at locking down the new soccer broadcasts, they would be fools not to.

As far as music stations go: on air talent that isn't paid pennies and wasted on canned programming would go a long way. Good talent can educate and introduce more music if a format starts to go stale. Instead of a wholesale format change it could be that songs not in rotation but by loved artists are played. Or songs covering a certain theme or season. It is the lack of originality and flexibility that is sometimes staggering.

In any event, it will probably be fall before we see a shake-up once again in Winnipeg and it will probably be firing people and a format chance by someone named Harold in Toronto who has launched 20 other stations that year. That probably isn't going to work. Assume that people will go anywhere to listen to music they like and if you want to keep them, it will have to be at a personal level on the devices they like.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Winnipeg Goldeyes 2018 Season Three-peat?

They did it once and then did it again. As other Winnipeg sports teams struggle to get to the play-offs and win, the Winnipeg Goldeyes have done it twice in a row and look to make it three in 2018.

This year's Goldeyes home opener is this Friday at Shaw Park and sees the return of several players who helped propel the team to victory last year. As in past years, the Goldeyes are down in Texas getting their season started. They just swept their last series which is a strong indication that the team is looking strong as ever.

This year marks 25 years for the return of the Winnipeg Goldeyes and things look pretty good when reflected back over the years. In 1994, the Goldeyes joined the one year old Northern League as a transfer team and played in Winnipeg Stadium. It was less than ideal but the team itself was the real deal. In the first year, the team took the title.

The Pan-Am Games was a turning point in 1999. As the city was still reeling from from loss of the Winnipeg Jets, the chance to build a baseball field downtown reached fruition. It was not without controversy and lots of public money spent. Through three phases in 1999, 2000 and 2003, the stadium was transformed into one of the most beautiful baseball parks in North America. In 2010, the Winnipeg Goldeyes switched leagues to join the American Association and that is where they are today.

The American Association is looking the healthiest in a lot of years. A few of the teams like the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and St. Paul Saints are strong markets with equally strong teams. Generally, it has been the southern division that has struggled with failing teams, shared teams, low attendance and poor competitiveness. Things may have stabilized for the time. Baseball seems to be on the upswing in many markets with new stadiums and ownership groups.

This year the Chicago Dogs join the league playing out of Impact Field that was just constructed this year in Rosemont, Illinois right by O'Hare International Airport. Next year Milwaukee gets a new stadium and team to join the league in 2019. Things look very good moving forward.

The continuity of the team in both front office and the field is the recipe to success. Rick Forney is back in his 13th year managing the team. Returning players are fan favourites like Reggie Abercrombie, Josh Mazzola and solid pitching group with returning Edwin Karl and Charlie Rosario among others.

At the independent league level, it is professional ball but players are making something like $800 a month and have room and board all over the city. There is no big TV contract. The radio broadcast with Steve Schuster is at an elite level on CJNU. This gets as close to on the ground sports and fans involvement as you can find. The players are heroes but earn less in a year than a Winnipeg Jets player makes in game.

As with any independent league, what happens on the field is enhanced with what happens off the field. Young and attentive cheer squads, ballpark food and beyond and simply sitting outside downtown watching a train chug along behind the grandstand so that even players watch in bemusement. And all of this that an entire family can see without breaking the bank.

When pointing out what things have happened in the last 20 years that have turned Winnipeg around, the Goldeyes and their ability to attract thousands of people downtown consistently has to me mentioned. Their success and ours have been mutual and they are back this year to entertain once again and to hopefully, take home the prize for a third year in a row.

Winnipeg Goldeyes home opener is this Friday, Many 25.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Control Escape Room Coming to Charleswood

The sign is up, the website says opening in May 2018, Control Escape Rooms is set to occupy the former Kids Etc Youth Movement dance studio at 3525 Roblin across from Laxdal in old Charleswood. Lest anyone think Kids Etc closed, a story is coming about their relocation into a building built for them.

There has been a lot change in old Charleswood after a number of years of stability in the business make-up of street. Kids Etc moved and Pizza Pizza closed in the same mall. The Prep Montessori School recently in the space where two former diet centres were once located.

In a shocker to many people the last bank of the street is shutting down and re-locating all its business to Portage Avenue. CIBC has been a fixture of the street forever. Now old Charleswood has no bank branch at in the next weeks.

The Charleswood Medical Centre is back up and running under new operators and a re-fresh. Sirius Benefits which was located in the old Matheo's restaurant was bought by People Corp and has re-located to Kenaston in their massive new facility. The building remains up for lease.

In another surprise the Subway restaurant shut down after many, many years. It had been the old survivor in renovations that saw Robin's and KFC closed in favour of Starbucks and now Capital restaurant.

However, back to Control Escape. Their webpage says opening soon and will feature 10 escape rooms. It will be the first escape room for the Charleswood area although Winnipeg may have the largest amount of the businesses anywhere on the planet. They truly have proliferated here and remain popular.

In a world where people increasingly were becoming shuts-ins to Netflix, video games and the like, the escape rooms are the antithesis to being alone. They require people to get together to enjoy an event in an allotted time with a reward at the end for figuring it out.

Expect to see Control Escape to open in Charleswood soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Giant Tiger Polo Park Area to Open in August

The former Sears Home store has been transformed over the last year. First Staples re-located to the shopping to the building at 1450 Ellice Avenue and now Giant Tiger has announced that they will be opening August 4 of this year. In July of 2017, construction began and Staples and Spirit Halloween shared the space side by side. The seasonal store was only a temporary resident though and work has been done to accommodate Giant Tiger which has been looking for a spot near Polo Park for some time.

Many surrounding properties near Polo Park have changed hands and there is considerable investment to keep the area the premiere retail area in the city. Jollibee's restaurant chose the 1450 Ellice site for its first location in Canada.

Giant Tiger has a master franchise agreement in the west with the North West Company and has been rapidly expanding. It took over the old Price Chopper site off Pembina Highway.

The last two years has also seen some large scale roadwork being done on St. James Street and surrounding streets although much work is still needed.

The question of the remaining Sears properties in Winnipeg remains undecided.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Winnipeg Jets Street Party

As some of you know, I've been out week after week setting up Winnipeg Jets Street parties for the NHL play-offs. Specifically, it has been the kids's section digital video wall in the Millennium Library park alongside Donald Street. There are five video walls altogether brought in from all over to cover five blocks.

There are many people working full days to put this together representing many companies working with Winnipeg Jets, Economic Development Winnipeg and the city to organize large scale street parties from the first play-off home game to the last. The decision to set up the events as they have been done is a reflection of the past and the present. Winnipeg crowds have been enthusiastic and well mannered but organizers did not want a repeat of what happened in Vancouver - twice.

To that end, security is ever present, fencing is all around, washrooms everywhere and entertainment provided. More video screens than Vancouver had and alcohol and alcohol free zones carefully separated. The street party has expanded each time but the fear of the 70,000 to 100,000 people that Vancouver had on the streets weighs heavy. And not just because of riots that happened in 1994 and 2011. Now, we have to worry about large crowds and those who might wish to hard.

Large dump trucks block the ends of streets. Police are present all over for safety. Without a doubt the concern is that if the party spills out past street party zone, the risk goes up. The police have been very good about people wanting to go Portage and Main. It doesn't happen every game but it has happened a few important occasions. We can possibly expect more and we can expect to see numbers of people go up.

These big questions are dealt with by the organizers. The CBC and Free Press have well covered the sheer logistics of putting all of this together. It is hard work and a lot of fun. My company had an entire semi-trailer unload last game with two dozen people. My actual unit in the kid's zone requires hours of work by 4 or 5 people to put up.

When we first started they were clearing ice out of the park and we were bundled in winter clothes. It was cold! I have been sunburned twice the last few times. I can't tell you how proud I am off the team and the response we get setting all this up. I love the Winnipeg Jets as many of you do and share the elation. The pride extends through the whole city and it is literally shocking how many windows, business signs, flags and people wearing Jets clothing and hats all over the city you see. Not just downtown...everywhere.
We're all still figuring things out with how to be cheerful, safe and how to celebrate for weeks on end. I'm sure we'll have to keep evolving through this amazing journey. When the arena was first planned for the downtown, there was an idea of what it could become. Like the Jets it has been a draft and develop sort of thing. Each piece fitting together to get to where we are now.

We have all played a part in this party for certain. None of it could have happened without our support, our joy and our participation. So once again I'll be parked on a closed Donald Street with my company be out there Monday morning after rush hour building a video wall and feeling happy to kid's and their families in the stroller section watching their heroes play Las Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of us will enjoy how good we all look in our coming out party. Be gracious, be fun, be safe and where sunscreen as we go deep into May playing for the Stanley Cup.

Go Jets go!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

It is hard to believe that the seeds for Avengers: Infinity War was laid in a decision to create a new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that utilized superheroes whose rights or distribution had not been picked up by other studios. Marvel Studios would keep things in-house and would reap the benefits financially compared to their licencing agreements that were less lucrative. More importantly, they would have creative control across multiple platforms on their work.

In 2008 the film portion of MCU released Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. which went on to monster success thereby rejuvenating Marvel and the actor as well. Over the next ten years 18 more films would be released covering many of the other comic superheroes from Thor to Black Panther. All of them would be within the same universe and slowly linked through a series of Easter Eggs that would reveal plot points that would gather all the characters into the Avengers along with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Success was not guaranteed. Fortunately, no box office bombs crippled the project as it went along although some re-casting of characters took place such as Hulk and James Rhodes of the Iron Man movies. Most of the disagreements being over pay and creative control.

Marvel chose quite the talent pool of writers, directors and cast. However, they had seen other properties such Fantastic Four never live up to expectations when done by other studios. As a result, the studio had certain parameters as well as requirements for each of their films. Incredibly, the nearly two films a year pace satisfied nearly everyone and the hallmark of the end credits was to wait for the snippet or sometimes two snippets of a cliffhanger for what was to come next.

And so it comes down to Infinity War where the build up to one of the great villains Thanos (John Brolin) has been gathering. Directors Anthony and Joseph Russo with a good Marvel background of Captain America movies as well as TV comedies were well chosen for the ability to blend action and drama with an ever present humour. And this is a good thing because from the very beginning the audience's favourite characters are fodder for the villain's ambitions. The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deftly gives the heroes screen time that plays to their previous strengths from storylines over the past ten years. The writers themselves know those characters well since they scripted four Marvel movies and polished a fifth not to mention created a spin-off TV series Agent Carter.

The talent pool in writing and directing is what attracts the huge amount of acting talent. Over twenty actors compete for screen time with many never working together before in Marvel's universe. Suffice to say, it is interesting to see Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) make for a good match in powers, action and humour.

It is hard to review without giving away the entire story but suffice to say that the villain Thanos has been gathering Infinity Stones as part of his plot to cull the universe of beings for its own good. He doesn't see himself as a bad guy. His view is that with a random fifty per cent of people gone, the universe will be stronger with more resources to use. Without his intervention, he believes universal collapse like on his own planet of Titan is inevitable.

With the McGuffin being the Mind, Soul, Time, Space, Reality and Power stones, heroes and villains alike are searching and battling in multiple locations. As far as the main filming location was, Georgia was the home of the bulk of the work with a few side trips to New York. It is a testament to the state that they can now do a $300 million movie with the best of the world studios.

The Guardians of the Galaxy cross over into Avengers as Thanos has been a thorn in their side for some time. Gamora played by Zoe Saldana has a particularly strong role to play as she is step daughter to Thanos. In many ways, this movie is an origin story for Gamora and Thanos.

The critics, the fanboys/girls will all have something to love about this movie. A few quibbles: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is good for the most part but the recklessness of his character at one point had me throwing my arms up in the air. In addition, Vision (Paul Bethany) has a stone in the middle of his forehead and yet we see hum use few of his powers used to defend himself.

Despite some confounding moments, the movie is a rip-roaring yarn. Some of the pay-off might come in the next movie since so many people are not sure how to take the ending. A few tears were shed to be sure. But there was a lot of action and laughs along the way.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Wheelies Roller Rink Set To Close

Today is the last day and probably more profoundly, the end of an era. Wheelies Roller Rink is set to close at the end of the day April 30. At one time the city of Winnipeg had roller rinks spread out all  over the city dating back decades with perhaps a heyday from the 1970s to 1990s. In recent years, it has been on the decline as location after location have been enclosed often to encroaching other enterprises.

And so it goes with Wheelies on Logan. A neighbouring business has bought the property and everything is being cleared out. Could it re-open elsewhere? Possibly. The owner is looking for an affordable 20,000 square foot location but that might be as difficult to find as a unicorn.

What was most attractive for families was the price for roller skating. Even on the last day, the price $2 per person. Hard to match that anywhere aside from the playground but then a playground is not brightly lit and open into a winter night with top 40 music playing and a mix of young, old, girls and boys.

Winnipeg Roller Rink, Saints and Wheelies was all about family time and in an Internet gaming world was one of the few ways to get kids out of the house. It was also one way to get parents forever on the sidelines of sports and other activities out there with them. No doubt this was one of the reasons why rolling skating in a party-like setting has had Winnipeg in its thrall for some long.

In a perfect world, a new location will be found and if not, hopefully, a new business model will emerge that includes a roller rink. In Canada, 5 pin bowling has survived in large part by innovation. Academy Uptown Lanes kept plugging away till they found a new location and business model. They will eventually relocate from Academy Road to Ellice Avenue.

For today anyway remember that bad top 40 song from years ago that will always remind you of the rink. Think back on that first disco ball you saw. Harken on a time when everyone had bad haircuts but that young girl or guy still looked awesome. And shed a tear for when our feet had wheels.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Frankie's Italian Kitchen and Bar Restaurant Coming to Seasons of Tuxedo

Construction continues at breakneck speed at Seasons of Tuxedo. This week graders were flattening out towards Kenaston and Sterling Lyon at the corner of the Outlets of Seasons Mall and piles being put down for the new Porsche dealership. Also in the works right on the corner is a new restaurant which will be a fair size at 5,880 square feet and have a 1,700 square foot patio.

The restaurant will be Frankie's Italian Kitchen and Bar which is a group out of Vancouver that has operated there for several years. This will be their third location after Chilliwack. In B.C., jazz and blues performances take place inside the restaurant and there is a strong association with the provincial jazz fests. It is unknown whether Winnipeg will feature live jazz performances at their location here.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served with evening meals ranging from $15 to $30 and dishes from pasta to paninis to pizza.

There are a number of other restaurants planned for the Seasons of Tuxedo site but the focus now seems to be one ones that extend further into the evening as a post movie or Cavalia type of entertainment. Expect to hear more announcements soon.