Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Big Lots NOT Coming to Winnipeg

Liquidation World on Wellington by Airport
It was just a matter of time before we saw the Big Lots name in Winnipeg as Liquidation World was bought up around two years ago by the Fortune 500 giant in the the U.S.

The Calgary-based Liquidation World with two locations in Winnipeg was founded in 1986 and ran into financial difficulties in the last 2000s. As a result, the entire company was purchased around 2011 by Big Lots out of Columbia, Ohio.

Liquidation World had adopted the Big Lots formula which had worked since 1967 for the U.S. company. That formula was to take over other companies discarded locations and sell closed out and overstocked items. The problem for Canada's LW was lack of capital.

The word has it that Big Lots will be having opening in Winnipeg quite soon. They are hiring managers now and it is uncertain whether it is stand alone locations or re-branding of the the provinces four Liquidation World stores.

News of Big Lots official opening should be coming very shortly.

Edit: December 2013. The U.S. company that purchased Liquidation World and was building  Big Lots has decided to close the entire operation in Canada citing big losses due to other U.S. retailers moving into the market.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mental Illness

Three different cases, three tragic outcomes. All of them dealing with some form of mental illness, disease or pathology that affects normal emotional and behavioural responses.

Right now the city mourns the tragic results of what appears to be postpartum depression. We still don't know the details but the outcome has been three people, two of them very young children, are dead.

It is interesting to note the sympathy for the young mother and the vigils held on her behalf. This has not been the case for every incident of mental illness and tragic outcome.

Universally, there has been an outpouring of grief for the victims of violent episodes of mental illness. This is not surprising considering the awfulness of what often happens. Consider the deep sorrow for two young children gone, a young man in a bus travelling home and a frail older man with Alzheimer's.

I don't even think I need to detail the incidents. We all seem to know them. They are sad, they are tragic and they are all deeply pressed into our souls.

Had the young mother lived, our reactions might have been tempered with questions of why. And maybe anger and recriminations. Hard to say.

We have seen a variety of emotions in regards to the bus incident. Even the federal government has felt compelled to interject on what the courts have decided is a health issue.

The victims of violence due to mental illness often want justice. However, it is hard to seek justice from a man with Alzheimer's who is not aware at all of his surroundings.

We want to feel safety from violence and that is understandable but a man placed in the Remand Center thinking he's at a hotel confused and scared  doesn't seem right. And cries for for him to go to trial seemed excessive.

Likewise with the bus incident, many people feel it is justice denied that mental illness was an excuse.

The courts have said time and time again they they have felt that they see to many mental illness related cases and that we need a mental health court to deal with special circumstances. One wonders what might have happened if the young mother in question had lived. Would criminal charged have been laid. Would she have gone to court?

Mental illness is not an excuse. We could all face some issues with cognitive and emotional mental capacity as we age. I assume we all hope for sympathy, understanding and care.

It is hard to tell a family with a loved one not to feel upset by their violent loss. They are mourning, trying to process the tragedy and wanting answers. It isn't easy and never will be. And the answers just might be not coming since the nature of the illness that manifested the violence seems foreign to those who can't know the mind it came from.

Our response to mental illness is still evolving. I'm not sure we have full accepted that criminally not responsible is a reason not an excuse for not going ahead with charges. Having said that, we want to feel safe and the government has to push ahead with far better treatment for mentally ill people. We need to feel safety so identifying issues is always going to be helpful in this regard.

I think that the one thing we have learned this week is that our sympathies for one person with mental illness and a tragic outcome were far different from the two other incidents. Wonder why that is.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Seasons of Tuxedo - Kenaston Village

Assiniboine Credit Union Kenaston Village
Assiniboine Credit Union Scurfield Blvd
They were tiny and I at some point, it was expected that they would merge into a bigger location. I am referring to Assiniboine Credit Union.

It was only a few years ago that credit unions across the province started to consolidate. The banks had left them a lot of openings as they were closing branches all over. However, the credit unions needed additional strengths to capitalize and that is why merger mania took place.

Since that time, we have seen much large credit union locations merge. Now, Assiniboine has decided to take the plunge and close two of its smaller locations in south Winnipeg at Kenaston Village and in the Whyte Ridge Shopping Centre.

The location that Assinboine Credit Union wants to locate to is the Seasons of Tuxedo site. This had been reported on long ago but it is only now that we are hearing an announcement. Apparently, they were taking a wait and see approach first to see how fast the development would proceed and how successful. The new location will be 5,700 feet and once open, the other branches will close.

Seasons of Tuxedo presently is anchored by IKEA and Cabela's but Structube and River City Sports are amongst other stores are now open.

Fat Burger opens on August 8 and that will fill the last restaurant location in a building where Subway, Taco del Mar and Pita Pit.

A Shell gas station is well under construction beside the Mr. Lube at Seasons of Tuxedo. Piles are being driven in close to that site for another retail complex as almost all spots elsewhere are leased.

The site where the future Lowe's Home Improvement has not been touched. It is uncertain what the wait is about as plan approvals did go through the city.

As some businesses locate to Seasons of Tuxedo, other malls will have to figure out what to do with some of their new open space. Kenaston Village now has had the former Rogers sit empty for more than a year. They will soon loose Assiniboine Credit Union as well.

The absorption of the old Rogers and Blockbuster sites has been fairly good although some problem locations continue to plague real estate agents. Innovative thinking is probably required. For example, old movie theatres in Winnipeg were converted to retail and entertainment sites in Winnipeg. It is hard not to think that some solution is forthcoming with these expansive old video store. And if not, sub-dividing them seems to be in order.

Kenaston Village has to think about how they fit into the future.

The next wave of store announcements is coming soon. New restaurants as well

The big question for businesses is where to locate. There are now several viable options out there and for some, it is a wait and see attitude. We still don't know the impact of all the Targets just yet, especially the brand new ones. Will it affect traffic patterns dramatically? Polo Park could be even busier when the new Target is up at the stadium site.

In late summer, there may be a renewed surge of activity as businesses make the choice of where to invest.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Palomino Club - 25 Years

Palomino's Club - 1988 to 2013
In 1988, the Palomino Club was established by owner Cary Paul and has continued for 25 years at 1133 Portage Avenue. Prior to the country bar, the club has been run by the same owner as Blue Jean's, a standard niteclub.

There had been an earlier but brief country burst in the 1980s with the Urban Cowboy crowd but the new wave, second British wave mixed with music videos pretty much stomped country save for those with cross over appeal like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. It didn't help that country music marketed itself with the likes of The Nashville Network and line and square dancing. It just seemed a tad uncool.

Little did we know that country would reinvent itself and through the 1990s Shania Twain and others would show the genre wasn't dead.

The Palomino Club was well positioned to take advantage the new rise in country.

So what kept the Palomino going strong all these years? In short, it has been their ability to attract women. And while there was dancing at Strawberries, Waterfront Network, Rorie Street Marble Club, Mustang Sallys, Scandals and other places connected to hotels or stand alone niteclubs, it was hit and miss with live music and DJs.

Women wanted to dance and have fun and at the end of the 1980s, rap and hip hop were starting to make inroads in North America and that type of dancing and music was a bridge too far for many people. In truth, the music industry which was swept up in the MTV and MuchMusic craze was fracturing into boy bands, more solo artist or singer/songwriters, female artists, metal, hip hop/rap/reggae/ska and whole lot of other subsets.

The one genre that offered solid opportunity for dancing and was female friendly was country. And with a newer and glossier pop country twang, the Palomino Club struck gold. The list of country stars who performed at one of Canada's oldest country cabarets is very long.

A club like the Palomino doesn't say at the top of their game without adapting. Today only around 15% of what is played is country. The success now comes from a good staff and good atmosphere. It also has a bit of an older crowd that some of the hotel bars and a reputation for cougars, older women on the prowl for younger men.

The site of the Palomino has had other clubs over the many years. Blue Jean's was there from around 1986 to 1988. A country bar there before that. My recollection was that it was Gabby's but I could be wrong. And before even when I can recall, it was Pierre's.

 At some point you become an institution and while owner/operators sometimes close down the doors, it is hard to see the Palomino being one of those places.

Here's to 25 more years.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Delta Hotel Winnipeg Renovations

Delta Hotel Winnipeg
The exterior renovations in 2012 cost $1 million and now roughly $9 to $10 million worth of renovations are taking place inside Winnipeg's largest hotel, the Delta Winnipeg beside the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

The hotel on St. Mary has been the largest hotel in the city since the 1970s with 393 rooms. Sometimes it seems as if renovations take place there all the time and in truth, it is around every 10 years according to industry standards. This latest work is stretched out over three years.

The convention centre next door was built for $23 million in 1975 and it triggered $50 million in private spending by Lakeview for a five tower complex that included a Holiday Inn, office tower, parkades and two residential towers. It is often believed that that convention centre came first and the hotel after but construction on the Lakeview development was well underway with hotel and one residential tower complete.

The hotel at 17 stories and constructed in 1972 has had three names since being built. The Holiday Inn was first and many years later became the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza or simply Crowne Plaza. It was an attempt by the Holiday Inn company to distinguish difference between some of their hotels. And in their mind, the Crowne Plaza beside the Winnipeg Convention Centre was a marquee product.

In 2000, the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza became the Delta Hotel Winnipeg and so began a dizzying name change for hotels in the city. Previously, the Delta had been on Portage Avenue in the old Northstar Hotel (now the Radisson). At the time of the conversion, the hotel underwent a $12 million renovation.

And so it goes again for the Delta, a very intensive reno to the outside and now the inside. Apparently, the reconstruction was already in the works and was not triggered by the $180 million expansion of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

New Skywalk connection completed in 2010
Delta exterior renovations in 2012
The Delta will continue to be the largest hotel for the foreseeable future and the primary hotel for the convention center. The two and now three block convention site area will likely be joined by one or two more hotels in time. However, talk about those hotels has gone on just under 10 years.

The underground parking and skywalk connections has made the area a prime convention site. Delta has 170 underground stalls off of St. Mary. The RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg has 560 parking stalls and will be adding 150 more in the new building. The Lakeview Square lot off of York Avenue has 512 parking stalls. All in all, quite a few spaces to accommodate people coming in for trade show and conventions and needing hotel space.

Photo by Esquire on Skyscraper Forum
The parking lot at York that is the site of the convention centre expansion is land the province has squatted on for years. It has been a parking lot for provincial workers during that time. By my calculation and I have not seen it listed, there were around 300 cars parked on the site. The parkade under the 340,000 expansion will have 150 stalls. I doubt very much whether provincial workers will get monthly parking there.

If and when Lakeview develops a new hotel on Edmonton across from the convention centre, a further 75 or so stalls will built over although I suspect the hotel will have underground parking to make up for it.

None of the missing parking on the surface will be mourned. The Delta Hotel, Lakeview Square and RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre did the right thing and put parking below grade. They also ensured mixed use of retail, restaurants and in the case of Lakeview, residential buildings.

The Delta Hotel is also doing a major upgrade on Elephant and Castle. This is a good thing as people forget how important the restaurants such as Boston Pizza in Cityplace and Elephant and Castle do for foot traffic.

It will be curious to see how long the Delta Hotel will continue to be the largest hotel in the city. It has held that position for decades and there seems to be no threat to that position even now.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mumford & Sons - Babel

'Cause I know that time has numbered my days
And I'll go along with everything you say
But I'll ride home laughing, look at me now
The walls of my town, they come crumbling down

And my ears hear the call of my unborn sons
And I know their choices color all I've done
But I'll explain it all to the watchman's son,
I ain't ever lived a year better spent in love

'Cause I'll know my weakness, know my voice
And I'll believe in grace and choice
And I know perhaps my heart is farce,
But I'll be born without a mask

Like the city that nurtured my greed and my pride,
I stretched my arms into the sky
I cry Babel! Babel! Look at me now
Then the walls of my town, they come crumbling down

You ask where will we stand in the winds that will howl,
As all we see will slip into the cloud
So come down from your mountain and stand where we've been,
You know our breath is weak and our body thin

Press my nose up, to the glass around your heart
I should've known I was weaker from the start,
You'll build your walls and I will play my bloody part
To tear, tear them down,
Well I'm gonna tear, tear them down

'Cause I know my weakness, know my voice,
And I'll believe in grace and choice
And I know perhaps my heart is farce,
But I'll be born without a mask

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Banks Show Some Love to Winnipeg

TD, Canwest and now RBC Building
RBC has really decided to make sure they have good name recognition in the province. In one short month, they have announced that they are putting their logo on two prominent Winnipeg buildings, the Winnipeg Convention Centre and 201 Portage Avenue, formerly the TD building, formerly Canwest Global, formerly Canwest building.The Royal Bank lion will now grace to major buildings in own for years to come.

RBC leased the top floors of 201 Portage for their securities division which was the impetus for the name going up . In recent months, the bank has also donated money for research on Lake Manitoba.

RBC has also been positioning more senior people here to capture some of the corporate business springing up. It is no accident that they want more recognition in the province for their work. People have not forgotten the steady stream of execs from all the banks that streamed west. Nor have they forgotten the steady refusal of investment money after that from those western purse-string holders.

The 1990s were rough years for Winnipeg and the province. The banks gave up, closed down and didn't believe the economy was worth it. The credit unions stepped up.

Not to be outdown by RBC, BMO has positioned a senior vice president here as well.

CIBC runs the only capital markets office in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg's Wellington West is now part of National Bank and Manulife.

Scotiabank has sponsored the stage at Festival Park in the The Forks for years.

The true test of the bank though is not just logos and sponsorships although these do help. It will be increasing the presence of senior bank staff and access to capital.

There is a reason why the credit unions boomed the last several years. It was the neglect of the banks. It is unlikely the banks will cause the credit unions to retreat. However, when it comes to getting corporate deals, securities trading and boutique financial services, the banks have more expertise.

There is one thing to note here. TD bank used to have a logo up on 201 Portage Avenue. They still occupy the building but RBC now has the higher floors, the logo on the building and more presence.

If there is a bank that needs to step up their game in the city, it might be TD.

Come on banks. Show some more love.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Steven Fletcher Dropped from Cabinet

Steven Fletcher, MP for Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia
He was first elected in 2004 stealing back an open Liberal riding in a battle with Glen Murray, the popular city mayor who chose the wrong riding and the wrong time to run as a Liberal.

Fletcher was a long time conservative party worker and endorsed Stephen Harper early on.

In 1996, as an engineering student at University of Manitoba, his vehicle struck a moose and he became a paraplegic as a result. Prior to the injury, he had been quite an outdoor athlete.

By 1997, he had struggled back to re-entering university for a MBA with the assistance of 24 hour attendant care. By 1999, he was running for president of UMSU at the University of Manitoba.

Ever the partisan, he went after those he said were left wing and was a controversial figure despite leaving the student union with a surplus. In 2000, he endorsed anti union and anti tenure policy positions. At the same time, he sought the provincial nomination for the Progressive Conservatives in Tuxedo.

While serving as student president, he conducted searches of offices looking for campaign material stored in contravention of UMSU election rules. In 2001, he became president of the Progressive Conservatives of Manitoba.

The fractious times he had at university was extended to his time as party president. He was a constant thorn in the side of the Stuart Murray, party leader.

It was around this time that Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation decided that they would no longer pay for an assistant to help attend to him during party business. It was a bitter fight and he eventually sued an NDP member and tried to push it twice to the Supreme Court.

In 2003, he turned his focus to federal politics and not once but twice secured the nomination In Charleswood. In 2004, he became the new MP for the area and four years later became a junior cabinet minister. Vic Toews was the senior minister.

In his time in Parliament, Fletcher has been most successful in getting the federal government to recognize disability and under Liberal and Conservative governments, they ensured he had an attendant present on the floor him. Some important health issues were pushed through Parliament by him even if some questioned his commitment to the Canada Health Act.

As a junior minister in various portfolios, he was the flag carrier and loyal foot soldier for funding announcements all over the place. He remained ever the partisan but it was from the Prime Minister's Office handbook. Moreover, the big decisions were always made by the inner cabinet and he was assigned the nuts and bolts of making it work. In some cases such as democratic reform, it appeared he was powerless on anything to do with his mandate, specifically the Senate

As 2013 moves past the halfway point, Harper looked to dump some ministers. In some cases, a few retired such as Toews, some left for health reasons, others indicated they would not run in 2015.

Three ministers were dropped unceremoniously. Peter Kent, Gordon O'Connor and Steven Fletcher. Kent seems to have known in advance and may have even volunteered to be an MP. He has said he is running again but you never know.

Steven Fletcher handled the announcement that he was out with humour. It could not have been fun. There are no open Senate seats, no Lieutenant-Governor position open for now so no place to jettison a dropped minister in the province.  There are no judicial appointments for a non lawyer. Even the lawyers such a Vic Toews didn't land such an appoinment.

By the way, it is my opinion although I have no proof whatsoever that Vic Toews will become the new president of the University of Winnipeg next year when Lloyd Axworthy retires.

However, back to Fletcher...what does a man do when dropped from cabinet? In Fletcher's case maybe run again and expect that a new Tory leader could be only three years away and represent a chance back in.

At the moment though, Charleswood looks vulnerable to a challenge. And I don't means just a challenge from Liberals. At the very least a few people might be wondering if now is not the time to challenge Fletcher for the nomination.

What happens next is anyone's guess. However, there are winners and losers in this shuffle and Fletcher is now a man on the outside looking in.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Kiss off

I need someone a person to talk to
Someone who'd care to love
Could it be you could it be you
Situation gets rough then I start to panic
It's not enough it's just a habit
Hey kid your sick well darling this is it
You can all just kiss off into the air
Behind my back I can see them stare
They'll hurt me bad but I won't mind
They'll hurt me bad they do it all the time
Yeah yeah they do it all the time
Yeah yeah they do it all the time
Yeah yeah they do it all the time
Yeah yeah they do it all the time
I hope you know this will go down
On your permanent record
Oh yeah well don't get so distressed
Did I happen to mention that I'm impressed
I take one one one cause you left me and
Two two two for my family and
3 3 3 for my heartache and
4 4 4 for my headaches and
5 5 5 for my lonely and
6 6 6 for my sorrow and
7 7 for no tomorrow and
8 8 I forget what 8 was for and
9 9 9 for a lost god and
10 10 10 10 for everything everything everything everything
You can all just kiss off into the air
Behind my back I can see them stare
They'll hurt me bad but I won't mind
They'll hurt me bad they do it all the time
Yeah yeah,yeah they do it all the time
Yeah yeah,yeah they do it all the time
Do it all the time
Do it all the time
Do it all the time time time
Yeah yeah they do it all the time

Friday, July 12, 2013


It has been written a few times the blogging's golden age was maybe two years ago and that things appear to be getting worse and worse.

We have seen a number of blogs locally that I have loved close down. Fewer start up, it seems. Many have migrated to Twitter or other social media.

I try to follow Twitter but as I don't own a cell phone, I don't see many Tweets. I think the immediacy of the medium, the shortness, the chance to snark is probably the attraction.

It is a rushed world and we chose to get our information like McNuggets.  Little bites here and there and a lot of time wasting done in grazing.

I won't criticize how we spend our leisure time. A lot of it is with family and friends.

I continue to blog as I continue to have something to say. In recent months, the blog gets between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors. It peaked in January with just over 25,000. Not all come to read my posts. Some use the site as a link to other blogs. I don't mind as I used to do the same thing with blogs with great blog rolls.

Google seems to be reeling in blogs at the moment. They have deleted music blogs even when the music received permission from the artists to post. They have indicated they will be eliminating any content they deem not fit for the site as well. The word is that they will end Google Reader which people use for their blog feeds.

The New York Times has started to end many of their blogs.

Many of the Free Press writers have slowed blog entries too. Like a lot of journalists, they tend to like the immediacy of Twitter.

It is probably not lost on many journalists that being paid to write as a professional is hard work. I don't know that blogging is part of their assigned tasks. Some do it probably just to create some insight or express a view that otherwise can't be written in an article.

I expect blogging will continue but there is a possibility that we might see increased intervention from site owners and perhaps even shutdown of entire sites. I hope I get warning if that actually happens. It seems that those who write might be at the mercy of those who own the sites.

For the time, I will continue to write. Sometimes the Free Press picks up one of my blog posts for the Sunday paper. I guess it should be pointed out that none of the blog's get paid for that. Someone asked the other day so I figured I should say straight up.

I will choose topics that continue to interest me in Winnipeg and beyond. Expect to see more posts on business, politics, culture and what's happening around town.

I have heard from a few people who like the bold for emphasis of certain things and others who say they hate it. I will stop using it for a while and please advise how it all looks. Likwise, I sometimes post after very long days. I do try to proofread but tiredness makes me miss things. I do often correct typos or missed words when advised.

I had posted my blog elsewhere as sometimes other people were posting it. I won't be doing that anymore. People are free to post it as they wish but a lot of sites don't like that. It is surprising sometimes where I see blog traffic coming from.

I can't help liking blogs still. I like the personal touch. I like the longer form of the written word. I like pictures. I like the viewpoints. I like that things read like chapters. I don't know that I can get that in Twitter, forums or social media

As always, thanks to those who read what I write. Not going anywhere so expect to see more posts for some time to come.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bird's Hill Park is NOT Siberia

It is kind of under the radar as far as summer series go but NBC is broadcasting a faux reality series called Siberia on Mondays opposite Stephen King's series Under the Dome on CBS and Global. It was probably a gamble placing anything against an adaptation of a famous horror writer's book but given the tendency of King works in TV and film to fail, a good bet.

In the end, Under the Dome is a success out the gate. Not so much Siberia.

It is likely few Winnipeggers are watching it if they are watching anything at all. The fact that it premiered on Canada Day doesn't help either.

The premise of Siberia is that 16 contestants are flown by helicopter to a very remote area of the Russian wilderness in late summer and are expected to survive with no set rules till winter's end. The area picked is Tugunska where a strange event occurred in 1908.

The producers recreate some cabins on a spot where the population of a village disappeared a long time ago. With only the clothes on their back and what is provided in the cabins, a race begins to where the contestants will live. The last two to arrive are eliminated.

It is from here that the standard Survivor eco-challenge thing goes off the rails. A contestant is killed and the producers go on with the show.

As mentioned, this is a faux reality series. What we are watching is a scripted drama set around a reality show.

Moreover, it isn't filmed in Siberia. It is filmed in Bird's Hill Park.

Not surprisingly, the Russians are very unhappy with the series. Some seem to think it is our fault but the truth is that the series is a Hollywood conjured up series filming in Canada because of the costs. The producer of the show is long familiar with Manitoba and filmed Capote in Winnipeg. The actors seems to be from all over and many have quite a few TV and film credits.

The second episode just aired and there are 11 more to go if the series doesn't get cancelled first or the Russians attack.

The series look to move to supernatural and Lord of the Flies in the next while.

If contestants hear music in the background, it is a good possibility that it is the Winnipeg Folk Fest they are hearing.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg

RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg
Winnipeg has been not surprising practical throughout its history in naming facilities that serve a public function. For example: Winnipeg Auditorium, Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg Stadium and Winnipeg Velodrome.

Naming rights have been around for a very long time. In the absence of a corporate owner and a company name, a famous citizen or citizens have often been chosen. Sometimes a sports facility might be called Memorial or Veteran's stadium. In other cases, named after a special event. The best Winnipeg examples are the Pan Am Pool and Pan Am Stadium.

The fully funded government brand new sports, convention and entertainment facilities dried up after the 1970s. The best these aging facilities could achieve was piecemeal upgrades from time to time. In the 1980s, the first real effort directed by the federal Liberals for a new arena downtown failed to gain traction.

It wasn't until the late 1990s that a new sports facility was built in Winnipeg and by that time, fully funded facilities were just not in the cards. Canwest Global Park (later Canwest Park and now Shaw Park) was a mish mash of funding sources and was built with various money including Crocus labour investment funds which have never been repaid. The baseball park built in 1999 was expanded to its present size in 2003. To this day, Sam Katz has said the baseball team has never made any money.

There has been a trend to transfer ownership of sports facilities to the operators of the teams that primarily call them home. This was done ostensibly to help with the viability of those teams but the amount of public investment advanced and the continued help needed for "infrastructure" almost seems limitless. Both the arena and the stadium replacements in Winnipeg have resulted in transfer of ownership to their respective teams.

The Winnipeg Convention Centre in Winnipeg is a different sort of animal. No team calls its home and no particular user has said they need the building along with the public support to be viable. I have written here before that a convention center is not just a white elephant that serves no purpose.

A campaign against the expansion of the convention centre was fairly vociferous.
The main complaint was that it was a perennial money loser. It is true, the facility has not made money. Heck, it has not even broke even. However, it was never designed really to be a profit maker. I do tend to agree that it needs better financial management and more revenue generators and user fees to operate by.

The biggest critics that the convention centre doesn't make money should not be surprised that the facility has sought out sponsorship. It seems a bit of a surprise that Royal Bank was the winner. This is no knock against the bank. They have operations all over Canada but execs mostly centered in Toronto and Montreal. The bank has had a strong presence in Manitoba over the years but has not show any particular affinity for the province over any other province.

In truth, it may be that the naming of a convention centre in Canada is a rare thing. How rare? Well, we probably have the first major sponsorship of any facility in Canada. I believe Ottawa has been looking for a sponsor but Winnipeg may have won the day because in the end, the Winnipeg Convention Centre will be the shiniest bauble in the country when done.

Sometimes there is no real explanation for a sponsorship. For example, General Motors sponsored the new arena built in 1995 in Vancouver despite the history of operations in Ontario. It always struck me as unusual but with a NHL team and a new NBA team that same year, the thought may have been that that it fit well with aggressive car marketing on sports channels.

Regardless of why Royal Bank sponsored the Winnipeg Convention Centre, it will help with revenue and raise the profile of the facility. The naysayers of public funding of the facility will probably never really be happy about it but the benefits to businesses in trade shows and the hotel and hospitality industry cannot be denied. It is entirely reasonable that the various governments might actually recoup their costs in taxes from various events associated with conventions and trade shows.

There are probably a few people who are not comfortable with corporate branding of buildings. I see it no different as naming streets, parks and neighbourhoods though. Someone named the neighbourhoods in the city of Winnipeg. Most of the times it was a developer. Seems a little too late for someone from River Heights to knock the naming of our convention centre as being awful when their own neighbourhood was branded in development.

Still, provisions have to be made for the failure of a corporation when naming a building. The Canwest Global name no longer exists and we have seen it stripped away from a few places. The ball park was seamlessly re-branded as Shaw Park but our tallest tower awkwardly became a number.  People can't forget the old name in some cases for a building or facility. To this day, some people will still say Trizec Building.

The Winnipeg Convention Centre has been an important asset for the city and will continue to be so. It attracts thousands upon thousands of people downtown. The year the building came on stream, it anchored two square blocks of vital activity in the district. The upgrade is likely to double or even triple the building surrounding the expansion.

Probably not every building is desirable for a corporate sponsorship but in this case, it does not harm and definitely helps the facility achieve its financial goals. I don't see it as being a problem going forward.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grant Park Movie Theatres Sold

Empire Theatres at the back of Grant Park
Unloved and unwanted. Or can't have. Grant Park Shopping Mall's Empire Theatres has changed hands again. Built in 1969 as a single Cinerama 720 seat theatre, it was the perfect theatre to see epic movies like 2001 and Star Wars. In 1989, it was split and expanded to four theatres and again in 1998, four more theatres were added for a total of eight and 1600 seats.

As more and more mall theatres close or become stand alone buildings, the Empire continued to defy the odds.

Now comes the news that the Sobey's family through their Empire group have sold their theatres to two other companies: Cineplex Odeon and Landmark.

For many years, the Grant Park Cinema was operated by Cineplex Odeon but the company was forced to sell it in 2005 when Famous Players merged with its main competitor. The competition bureau decided that it was just too much concentration of one company in Winnipeg.

The Sobey's family came to rescue and Empire Theatres in Winnipeg was founded.

Landmark Cinemas from Alberta now becomes owner of the halls. Most people know of Landmark through their ownership of the 1,200 seat Towne Cinema 8 since 1981. This was Canada's first stand alone multiplex.

Landmark also operates the Globe Theatres in Portage Place.

What does this mean for Winnipeg? In the grand scheme of things...probably little. Grant Park will be renamed and jobs will be retained.

But what of the possible movie theatres in St. James and Seasons of Tuxedo? As mentioned earlier in this blog, there are fewer and fewer possible competitors. At one time AMC Theaters was a possible contender but they retreated from the Canadian market as well.

It is very uncertain if the much talked about brand new theatres will ever be built given the dominance of one of the players. Landmark still seems to be a company that has generally stayed away from competing with the really big players. To be sure the purchase of Empire makes then bigger but will we see even greater investment in a super theatre complex in Seasons of Tuxedo?

The remains to be seen.