Yellowknife's visitors centre sets sights on temporary home

Structural issues forced the shutdown of the Yellowknife visitors centre, which officially closed its doors on Monday. Northern Frontier Visitors Association President Kyle Thomas hopes the operation will soon have a temporary home at the museum.

Visitors centre expected to temporarily operate out of museum

The 25 year-old Northern Frontier Visitor's Centre has been sinking and shifting for years. It finally closed its doors to the public on Monday. Visitor services are expected to be offered at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. (Randall Mckenzie/CBC)

Yellowknife's visitors centre will soon be moving to a temporary location inside the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, if all goes according to plan.

The existing centre officially closed to the public Monday because of major structural issues.

Kyle Thomas, president of the Northern Frontier Visitors Association, says the organization is waiting for a basic agreement between the association and the museum before moving in.

Kyle Thomas, president of Yellwoknife's Northern Frontier Visitor's Association, hopes visitor services will be offered again soon out of the museum. (Randall Mckenzie/CBC)

"More or less, we are going to potentially have a desk at the museum for a temporary period of time," he told CBC.

"There will be at least one staff there at all times during the hours of operation at the museum."

Thomas says the desk will be set up right at the front entrance of the museum. He had hoped to start moving into a new location by Monday when the centre closed, but said minor hurdles prevented that.

City pitches in

A cash-strapped City of Yellowknife appears willing to help. It announced $17,000 in additional funding on Tuesday to support the transition.

"Our resources are stretched, as a result of both chronic underfunding from the GNWT as well as the cumulative range of issues that the City is addressing which are outside of our usual jurisdiction," said Mayor Mark Heyck in a statement.

"However, given the importance of tourism to a diversified economy, we have chosen to reallocate from within and will endeavour to ensure a minimal impact on front-line programs and services."

The city says it will also welcome tourists and provide maps at city hall, and that the centre's closing won't affect 2017 core funding.

Thomas says funding from the city and the GNWT cover about 40 per cent of the visitors centre's annual operations while merchandise and other revenues cover the rest.

Staff laid off, fate of current building uncertain

Thomas says funds provided by the City will also help cover wages and benefits for remaining staff after the visitors centre was forced to lay off two people Monday.

"The contribution that we got will go to help keeping what staff we have ... for the next couple months until we can find a more permanent solution to all of this," he said.

Meanwhile, the fate of the existing building off 49th Street will likely be decided by the territorial government.

"We've asked [the GNWT] to handle the outcome of the building whether they choose the demolish it or do something else with it," said Thomas.

"I think the general consensus among the board is to just hand over the reins to the territorial government."

The visitors centre only opened in 1991 but has been sinking and shifting into the small pond behind it for years.

More than 50,000 people visited the building in 2016, more than three times the number of visitors 10 years ago.

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