Memorial's board of regents approves establishment of Pepsi Centre transfer working group
© file photo
A team has been set up to transition the Pepsi Centre back to the City of the Corner Brook.
If it will cut down on the confusion of who the decision-makers are, Finton Gaudette is all for a possible transition of governance of the Pepsi Centre from Memorial University of Newfoundland to the City of Corner Brook.
On Wednesday, it was announced a working group comprised of members of both entities would consider options and processess required to do just that. Though the membership of the working group has yet to be determined, it will be led by Grenfell Campus vice-president Mary Bluechardt and Mayor Charles Pender.
“We didn’t know half the time who we were dealing with,” said Gaudette, who is an organizer of the local Galaxy Women’s Volleyball League and the vice-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association, both of which have utilized the Pepsi Studio.
“With the transfer going back to the city, I think there’ll be less confusion with who to deal with. I think that will make things better.”
Though he said he wouldn't say anything negative about Memorial’s running of the place, it was often just one more group of people that could displace his volleyball teams. He said that happened on occasion when a Grenfell team needed a place to play or if the Pepsi Studio was being used for exams during the renovations to the university’s gymnasium.
“They just basically said, ‘This is more important than your league, so we’re taking priority here tonight.’”
Corrina Murrin, president of the Silver Blades Figure Skating Club, hopes a transfer of governance would lead to more support from the city.
“Right now there’s no recreation group under the City of Corner Brook, so hopefully it will drive that ... and get some increased focus towards the youth of the community,” she said. “We haven’t had that support over the last couple of years.”
Of particular interest to Murrin is how a change of leadership might impact rental fees, particularly with potential improvements being made to the Pepsi Centre after a functional space plan consultation was conducted by Hatch Mott MacDonald at the request of the city.
“I think all the user groups have that kind of feeling,” she said. “All this planning and great ideas — what’s it going to mean to user groups in terms of expenses we might have when we start our season again?”
Halfway through agreement Memorial, through the separately incorporated entity Western Sport and Entertainment, has been operating the city-owned Pepsi Centre for the past eight years. The university’s board of regents approved the recommendation at its regular meeting last Thursday. Memorial University is currently halfway through its second five-year agreement with the city for the operation of the Pepsi Centre.
“I think it’s appropriate to be looking at the long-term relationship anyway, to see if it was something we were interested in continuing,” said Grenfell Campus associated vice-president of administration and finance Gary Bradshaw. “Also, I think we’re starting to see that perhaps there’s a better model that might be put in place to provide more of a community-based operation for the Pepsi Centre.”
Bradshaw said the university is looking at the possibility as a positive and will continue to be a supporter and user of the facility. The only change would be they’d no longer be the technical operator.
“When you really look at it, we’ve had involvement for eight years and we probably haven’t really migrated or put any programming linkages in place that maybe we anticipated at the beginning,” he said. “After eight years, you kind of say, ‘Well, maybe this doesn’t quite fit our core business.”
Mayor Pender, meanwhile, said it’s a matter of focusing on making the Pepsi Centre more available to community user groups.
“Memorial had to operate under a different mandate,” he said.
The working group will convene with the existing board and discuss some of the issues that have had to be dealt with over time. It will also look at adjustments to the schedule and the building itself to best accommodate current user groups and, hopefully, new ones as well.
“We don’t just want to see one or two groups using it for 15-17 hours a week, we want it used full-time,” Pender said. “Obviously during school hours is more difficult, but from four o’clock onwards, that place should be full.”
The governance transfer — which Pender stressed is no guarantee — could still take several months to happen. The plan so far is to sit down and have a discussion to see where both of the parties come together. If common ground is found, then the deal will proceed, the mayor added.
“When we say we want it to be a community building, what we mean is we want as many people in this community who want to use the space to be able to use the space and afford to be able to use it as well.”