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Manitoba pledges funds for ag show venue

One of Manitoba’s best-known venues for agricultural shows and events may soon pick up a longer-term funding agreement from the provincial government.

The Keystone Centre in Brandon would get provincial grant assistance of up to $250,000 per year for five years under a proposal announced Friday in Brandon by Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk.

The proposal, she said, is meant to “assist the Keystone Centre in its efforts to maintain green space for the people of Brandon and cover its current and future operating deficits.”

One of the conditions of the provincial funding calls for no sale or lease of Keystone land for “unrelated commercial enterprises.”

The province said its funding is also conditional on the City of Brandon providing matching funds, which would bring the total annual investment to $500,000 per year for up to five years.

Furthermore, the province said, it will require the Keystone Management Group to create a “capital replacement reserve” for the facility.

Also, the Keystone Centre’s annual operating and capital budgets would now require approval from both the Manitoba government and Brandon city council.

The Keystone Centre, originally opened in 1972 and expanded several times over since then, was set up through an agreement between the city and province that saw the two parties share equally in any Keystone deficit. The land and existing venues at that time were provided by the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.

The centre’s 10-member board includes four community representatives and two each from the city and provincial governments and the Exhibition.

The centre occupies 90 acres in southern Brandon off Highway 10, including 540,000 square feet of multi-use facilities, among which are the home ice of the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Brandon Wheat Kings and the Brandon Curling Club.

The Keystone Centre in 2006 opened the Agricultural Centre of Excellence, which includes 100,000 square feet of show ring, stabling, wash racks and other show facilities connected to the main centre and is adjacent to six acres of outdoor development including outdoor sand and grass equestrian show rings, camping sites and parking for large trucks and trailers.

The centre’s main annual ag events include Ag Days, the Manitoba Livestock Expo and the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.

Overall, the centre hosts about 1,500 ag and non-ag event days per year. Among the centre’s upcoming events, the Wheat Kings recently bid successfully to host the 2010 Memorial Cup.

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