Manitoba

Winnipeg to fund $4.9M of additional convention centre improvements

The City of Winnipeg is poised to provide the RBC Convention Centre with $4.85 million for fire prevention and washroom improvements in the older, northern part of the building.

Fire prevention and washroom upgrades needed, report says

About $4.85 million worth of improvements need to made to fire suppression and washrooms in the older wing of RBC Convention Centre. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg is poised to provide the RBC Convention Centre with $4.85 million for fire prevention and washroom improvements in the older, northern part of the building.

On Tuesday, Mayor Brian Bowman's inner circle will consider city grants that would allow the non-profit convention centre to do $4 million worth of fire-prevention work that was identified as necessary when the building underwent an $180-million expansion.

Another $850,000 is required to bring older washrooms up to building-code standards.

"This is entirely code work that needs to be completed," said Drew Fisher, the convention centre's new president and CEO.

A report to city council's executive policy committee says $2.75 million of the funding will come from damages paid to the city by construction company Stuart Olson, which had promised to build a hotel as part of its bid to conduct the convention centre's expansion work.

In 2015, Stuart Olson agreed to pay $3.75 million in a settlement after it declared it was unable to find a partner capable of building a hotel to serve the convention centre. The original plan called for a hotel to rise north of the convention centre, where the Carlton Inn used to stand.

That site is now slated for the second phase of True North Square, with a residential tower and a new Sutton Place Hotel. Property taxes from this development, now expected to be completed in 2022, will help pay the convention centre's construction loan.

The report to the EPC calls for a new $2.1-million grant from the city to cover the portion of the fire-suppression and washroom upgrades that are not covered by the Stuart Olson damages. The money would come from the city's destination marketing reserve, a fund built up from proceeds of Winnipeg's accommodation tax, but would be paid back by the convention centre.

The report says the province been asked to share the $4.85-million tab.

"To date there has been no reply to this request," Winnipeg chief financial officer Mike Ruta writes in the report.

The provincial government said in a statement it's considering the request.

The city has guaranteed a total of $33 million worth of convention centre expansion loans. The convention centre is responsible for paying back $17 million, while the city and province are splitting the remaining $16 million. 

The report to EPC recommends the city use more money from the destination marketing reserve to draw down the city's $8-million portion of the $16-million loan by $1 million a year.

This would allow the city to pay off its portion of the $16-million loan in 11 years instead of 25 years, the report states.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, who was only in office for three months when his administration wrestled with the 2015 convention-centre funding plan, said he's going to take a closer look at the report

"The convention centre and the loan guarantees are ultimately on the city's books," he said.
The City of Winnipeg is poised to provide the RBC Convention Centre with $4.85 million for fire prevention and washroom improvements in the older, northern part of the building. 1:39