Fredericton puts performing arts needs ahead of FREX
Deputy Mayor Eric Megarity says city has invested in sport, now focused on a performing arts centre
Fredericton city council has determined a performing arts centre is a top priority for the city, not improvements to the Fredericton Exhibition grounds, said deputy mayor Eric Megarity.
"I'm at a loss. I know we've had support from some councillors, we've had meetings with the mayor and with city staff — everybody seemed to support the direction that we're proposing until it came down to bring it to the vote and everything seems to go back to where it was the year before, and the year before that," Vokey said.
Under the plan Vokey is proposing, the Capital Exhibit Centre space and the Coliseum would undergo improvements to allow for more trade shows, basketball and volleyball tournaments and entertainment events.
Arts and culture new focus
Megarity says there simply isn't enough money to go around, and the city has recently invested millions in sports infrastructure including two new arenas, two new outdoor soccer fields and the convention centre.
"So now we have as our first priority — a performing arts centre and that's a huge project and all 12 councillors agree with that."
Vokey says without municipal support for the plan to make improvements to and expand the events at the exhibition grounds, it will be impossible to get the support of the provincial and federal governments."
"If we get wishy-washy on that, the other levels of government are saying, `Well listen, we're not prepared to help you yet, until you give us a definite answer of what are your priorities,'" Megarity said.
Comprehensive plan for FREX
Megarity says council needs to see a plan from Vokey for the entire 31 acres that makes up the exhibition grounds in the heart of the southside of the city.
"What council has asked of him is give us a comprehensive plan for the whole property, we haven't seen that yet."
However in an e-mail, Vokey responded that the comprehensive business plan has been submitted to three levels of government and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
That's a very, very important piece of property, right dab in the middle of Fredericton- Deputy Mayor Eric Megarity
"It has been accepted as is, and even complimented at the federal and provincial levels – includes multi-year financial projections, commitments from potential users, and the construction plan by John MacDonald of ADI," Vokey writes.
"I would also like it known that the other levels of government had multiple meetings to review the proposal with me during the approval process, however the city, the only one to reject to project, did not."
Megarity said city council is open to sitting down with Vokey and city planners.
The prime land on which the exhibition grounds are located is owned by the city, but both Vokey and Megarity explains there is a "perpetual lease" on the property dating back to 1949 that gives the exhibition association the right to operate on the land.
"That's a very, very important piece of property, right dab in the middle of Fredericton," Megarity said.
Vokey says in the past year, without any financial support from the city, the exhibition facility has hosted 55 events, up from 12 in 2014.
He says the property could bring huge economic spin-offs for the city with a small investment.