Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pho Hoang Moves to 235 Portage Avenue

Pho Hoang Vietnamese restaurant has moved from their long time Sargent location near Arlington to the downtown area at 235 Portage Avenue. The previous tenant Kim Long Chinese food closed a while ago. A steady migration of Chinese food establishments have opened along Pembina Highway. It is difficult to say if it is the main reason for some of the closings elsewhere but it probably has had an impact.

Sargent Avenue has long been the incubator for ethnic restaurants. The competition from big chains there is unlikely and locations are small enough to make a go of it. Many newcomers are in the area and good food connoisseurs will come from around the city to experience tasty restaurant fare.

The location at 235 Portage is one of the pretty buildings just a little bit down from Portage and Main. If the street opened, it is possible the location would see even more foot traffic in front of it. As it is, there are some well established businesses and organizations along the street but that a little dash of excitement would be good.

The new 40 floor residential tower will be going up over the next two years just off the intersection and Hyatt Place Hotel is under construction on Portage East. More people are coming. It will also be interesting to see what happens in the ScotiaBank building now that they de-camped to True North Square.

Suffice to say that more people are living downtown than in the past number of years. Some areas such as around the BellMTS have come alive from multiple developments. However, you don't have to be too far removed from that sphere to die of neglect. 

Restaurants are a tough business at the best of times. This is a big move for a business in operation since 2010. It will be interesting if more businesses can extend the streetlife beyond 5 PM and what sort of foot, bike and car traffic they will get that will stop by and get involved.

Lots of interesting things are happening but the new dynamic has yet to reveal itself downtown.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

India Palace Express Coming to St. James

Palatal Express has been closed at 3128 Portage Avenue for a bit now. It one is several closed restaurants along Winnipeg's main corridor. There are a wide variety of reasons for the closures. Families retiring from certain locations such as Mandarin or declines in popularity such as Robin's. Some other such as Gasthaus Gutenberger closed in the last two years without much explanation despite being around since the 1990s.

The restaurant business is tough and even some powerful players such as Stella's have been stung by the popularity of Skip the Dishes. Restaurants that have big rent increases or two many locations can be lose business quickly or find the margins too tight. Sometimes certain foods just lose the public's flavour.

With three other locations for Palatal Express in the city, it might have been overkill to operate a fourth location, especially just pick up and take out joint. It also might be that Mongolian was just not a big pull in St. James. Whatever the reason, a prime location near Grace Hospital became available but not for long.

Take pick up and take out format continues but it has become a location for Indian Palace Express. Owned presumably by the same family that owns India Palace on Ellice as was the Indian Place Express food truck.

There is no doubt that Indian food has continued to enjoy popularity in Winnipeg while some European has seen some decline, especial French and German fare. It is possible that this Indian restaurant location will hit the spot in St. James.

As housing and commercial rent prices go up, I suspect we will continue to see a re-think of much of the Portage Avenue strip as it extends from West End to the Perimeter. It is not unfair to say that much of the commercial building stock could stand a re-fresh. Expect to see some of the new entrepreneurs do exactly that in the months and years ahead.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

185 Smith Street Public Housing in 1971

185 Smith under construction in 1971 for Manitoba Housing and done in 1973. Background Canadian Grain Commission completed in 1972. The 21 story building sold this past year to private company for housing after three years empty.

The Richardson building in the background was completed two years earlier in 1969.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Let's Talk About Langside Street - University of Winnipeg

Once upon a time the University was one block square. Portage Avenue was it's beautiful face although for years it was a bit crumbly despite green verdant land right to the street. Balmoral was one tough border street with belching buses idling at the station and and even toughener Mall Hotel with seemed to be a permanent police presence right through to the 1980s. Furby Street was greener and a had a few private apartments where students stayed and older residence that were slowly decaying, one filled with dozens of cats. The rump end of it all was Ellice where Lockhart hall rose high up to the street but unlike the front of the campus had no curbside appeal despite it being one of the newest part of the campus.

Welcome to the 1980s. The building phase of the University of Winnipeg in the 1960s and 1970s was over. The decade of cuts began even as student enrollment began. Classes were cut, programs cut. Men's hockey team...gone. Men and women's residences...shut down. They became offices since there was no budget for new infrastructure. Infrastructure was aging every year, tuition going up and a recession was smacking Winnipeg harder that anything since the Depression.

Despite all this University of Winnipeg coped, had excellent instructors and and enjoyed a strong reputation even as students had to attend a year or two more to get the courses they needed because of aid cuts, tuition cuts and courses that were not offered the year a student wanted and needed them.

The University of Winnipeg's sports facilities might have been the worst in Canada, Riddell Hall basement where the school volleyball and basketball teams shocked rivals across North America was a disaster. For a dozen years the university begged for funding but everything was frozen in 1977. It was only in 1982 that a new government allocated spending of over $8 million for what became the Duckworth Centre. The University of Winnipeg Student's Association was so committed to the new building that they allocated money from students via a vote.

Flash forward to 2018 and the U of W has spread across four blocks and more of the city. It has seen the return of student residences, one of the largest downtown daycare centers, restored facades and re-construction of Wesley Hall and top notch Collegiate, a science building, enhanced student dining, better bookstore and and grown its programming and student services. It isn't perfect but until 1984 when the athletic fieldhouse was built, the university was in decline.

There have always been businesses near the university that students patronized but there was no student bar per se. Students and faculty sometimes went to the Union Centre down the street for cheap beer. A close by Legion served the same purpose. But it was haphazard and was not truly a center of student life. The three main cafeterias on the one block campus is where people ate and then left.

As for stores, there were a few across the street like Mother's Music that students went to the 1980s. Supreme Racquet Courts also had students who were members played but campus life was such that very few actually lived in the area. As a result, nightlight was quiet in the proximate area of the university.

This has changed with students living downtown and the numbers keep growing. I will save the discussion about south of Portage Avenue for later. For now, let us focus on north Portage surrounding the university, specifically the west side.

The stretching out of the campus along Portage west has begun a transformation of the street.

To be fair, business has been on the street for eons catering to local neighbourhood and ethnic communities, However, what we are seeing now are changes that seem to reflect that students don't just come to school for classes but live in the neigbourhood.

The stretch of street along the southside of Portage Avenue between Young and Langside would appear to affected by changes in the campus now surrounding them. Some businesses have been there for decades but other are popping up to serve the university. Take the case of Langside where some tiny businesses such as book store, hair salon and a restaurant have set up opposite Richardson Science Hall and McFeetors Hall.

Arzate Hair Salon, Elemental Book and Curiosity Ship and the new Not A Waffle (replacing Yo Tea) sit small and pretty across from the university. Just on Portage itself in the same building is a convenience store, nightclub and most importantly for students, a cellular phone store.

It takes a while for a neighbourhood to change organically. It can come in stops and starts but the presence of a local population and one not prone to a bunker mentality to change things.

Without a doubt, the move of the University of Winnipeg westward down Portage Avenue is changing thing. Further down the street in the block after the science complex, the Good Will restaurant and entertainment space would seem to be a good example of the change we can expect a larger student population can bring.

Everyone will have to keep an eye out for how things are being transformed on what once was a commuter campus.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Altea Active Fitness Coming to Bridgwater in 2019

There was talk about it in July at a zoning meeting but no major announcement till now that a major fitness center was set to be built in Bridgwater. It will likely be the second largest fitness facility in Manitoba at 80,000 square feet and costing $30 million. The largest gym in the city in the University of Manitoba's Active Living Centre at 100,000 square feet.

Bridgwater is one of the fastest growing parts of the city and as such, there is growing demand for services and shops. There have been complaints about the lack of city provided recreation in the area. Local officials have assured that this won't be left completely to the private sector to provide.

The Altea appears to be a branching off by the principals of the Movati Fitness group from Ontario. David Wu and and Michael Nolan have been spokesmen  in regards to the company. Nolan was once Canada's most decorated decathlete till retire a number of years ago.

The three floor gym is aimed at families. No price point has been suggested yet but back in July it was indicated that it was in the range of Winnipeg's YM/YWCAs.  The amenities will feature a all women's fitness area, a children's play area, a saltwater pool and splash pad, climbing wall, yoga, weight room and cardio, a Himalayan salt inhalation room, skating and a ninja course.

The competition for fitness members is likely to get heated between Shapes, Goodlife and Altea in the next several months. And this can only be good for everyone in Winnipeg.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Blady Middle Eastern Coming Soon

In the windows at Portage Avenue at Craig Street is the promise of Blady Middle Eastern coming soon. And the signage has gone up on the building. The previous tenants, a window and door company, a hobby shop and a restaurant, all have re-located in the last year.

There has been an influx of middle eastern, Arab and African cuisine in recent years as immigration as refugee numbers have risen. This is a common phenomenon with different groups looking to make a mark in private business. The way for the whole family to be involved is often a restaurant. And so it has gone with Chinese, Indian, Italian, Greek and Portuguese families to list just a few.

Winnipeg has had an embarrassment of riches food-wise. This addition is fairly sizable on part of the street that has electronics (Advance) and music stores (Yamaha).

The Portage Avenue, Polo Park area has seen a burst of Middle Eastern fare go up. It is difficult to know if this is a result of any particular trend or of the reasons for it.

More information on menu when they are up and running!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Main Street Winnipeg in 1949

Photo courtesy of University of Winnipeg Archives. In 1949, it was proper to have a hat and step inside the protection of the bollards when waiting for a streetcar 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!