Water park proposal yanked by developers

There will be no water park at The Forks in Winnipeg.
This city-owned parking lot was the site being eyed for the proposed water park. (Google Street View)

Canalta Hotels letter to city

After careful consideration of city council's decision of April 25, 2012, and reading the negative coverage of our preliminary proposal (based only on speculation), we have concluded that city council is not interested in moving forward with a water park, hotel and parking structure at this time.

This in spite of the fact that details of our proposal were submitted in response to a request for expressions of interest issued by the City. We selected the location, believing strongly that it was the only viable location for the water park that met the criteria of the expression of interest. We knew that the city needed to agree to sell the land to us and that the city had to approve our plans before we could proceed with the development.

Council passed a motion that requires significant additional cost over and above what we have already incurred without knowing if any design we propose might be approved. We must have a reasonable expectation of success before inucrring further costs, which we do not have.

We are disappointed but respect council's right to make the decisions they make. Unfortunately, council has put us in a position where we have no alternative but to redirect our development efforts elsewhere. We thank you for considering Canalta but we feel it is best to withdraw our proposal at this time.

Letter from Canalta CEO Can Christianson to the City of Winnipeg

There will be no water park at The Forks in Winnipeg.

The proposal for a water park and hotel complex at the corner of William Stephenson Way and Waterfront Drive has been pulled by the developers.

Coun. Justin Swandel, who supported the proposal, said he is "disappointed."

"I think we could have got something done here that would have respected the site and would have been a great value to all Winnipeggers," he said.

Canalta Hotels, along with water park designer Waterfun Products, had proposed to build the 50,000-square-foot complex.

Some councillors were upset with the lack of details being provided by Canalta, even though they were being asked to vote for the project and hand over a $7 million subsidy.

The city first set aside the money in 2008, trying to encourage developers to come forward.

Many people in the community criticized the idea of the complex going in such a desirable spot near the city's popular historic market.

Others were upset the land was essentially being given away. Canalta was going to buy it for $6 million, even though they would get $7 million from the city.

And last week, the architect of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg swung a punch at the proposal, too.

In a letter sent to Winnipeg city councillors, Antoine Predock said a water park "risks trivializing" the area and turning it into a theme park.

The proposal was facing defeat at a meeting in April before those in favour made a last-minute pitch to defer the vote and give the developers a chance to better explain what they wanted to do.

Swandel says the decision by Canalta doesn't bode well for Winnipeg ever getting an indoor water park.

"I think it means, you know, we've tried for over five years now to get a waterpark with $7 million of public sector money and we've been unsuccessful," he said.

Katz standing aside

There were also questions about what role Mayor Sam Katz should play in the politics of the deal, due to conflict-of-interest concerns.

The land eyed by Canalta is located near Shaw Park, the home of the Goldeyes baseball team. Katz owns the Goldeyes.

Also, the agent for the water park developer is Shindico Realty, whose top brass have been Katz's longtime business partners in the Goldeyes.

The deal, had it passed, would have seen the city provide Canalta with $7 million towards the construction.