THUNDER BAY – With all the discussion over where an Event Centre should be, how about adding a new twist to this discussion. If one were to look west to Calgary, home of the World Famous Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, you can see how a multi-purpose event centre can be run.
The Stampede Grounds in Calgary contain the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Stampede Corral, the BMO Centre, and the Stampede Grandstand.
Located just south of downtown in Calgary, Stamepede Park is serviced by Calgary Transit. Parking at the Stampede grounds is present across the street, and at lots on the grounds but during major events, most people take transit.
For those complaining about how a walk from their car to the new Event Centre in Thunder Bay might be, in Calgary, it is over half a kilometre from the Stampede LRT Station to the Saddledome. That walkway is full of fans attending events, concerts and Calgary Flames games. No one complains.
So what you might be asking? How can what Calgary is doing so well mean anything in Thunder Bay?
What if, instead of simply looking at the Event Centre as another stand-alone project in Thunder Bay, we looked and dreamed bigger?
What if we put the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition and the Event Centre together?
We could do that in the Downtown Northward, combining it with Prince Arthur’s Landing. There would be room for exhibitions, concerts, there would be an outdoor concert ground at Prince Arthur’s Landing. The midway could be just south of the Current Marina Park. We could be continuing to develop the Waterfront!
Likely because the entire event would be spread over a larger area, and there would be different venues, a bracelet for entry would have to be considered. That is getting deeper into the logistical stuff that a broad based plan doesn’t need at the start.
The CLE could be something that becomes a street fair in the downtown core of the Port Arthur downtown core.
The restaurants, bars and night clubs would all have increased business. During conventions, people would have the chance to slip out, and dine in one of the restaurants. As the venue continues to prosper, more and more shops would frequent the area.
The streets could be closed on Red River Road and Cumberland during the new expanded CLE too!
It would take a shakeup in the planning department in the city to generate the desire to help businesses locate in our city.
The CLE might have to do some re-focusing on its mission statement, and might end up spread out a little bit more than it currently is, but with a broad mind and a willingness to be innovative, we could, in Thunder Bay be doing something really special.
We could, through the CLE tie into the growing Aboriginal community in our city as well as embracing our mining and logging heritage.
Sale of the land that the CLE is currently on perhaps to other big-box store companies in the Intercity Shopping District would be possible too. Those funds could be used for land purchases that would be needed in the new expanded downtown area CLE.
This might be a bigger idea than some in our community are prepared for. But if you look at what can be done rather than what can’t be done you develop a far more positive outlook on life.
Thunder Bay it is time to think outside the box and dream big!