MLAs back visitors centre move

165

City representatives voice support for covering relocation, cleanup costs

Four city MLAs have called on the GNWT to help move the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre from its deteriorating building to a temporary location and cover costs that could reach into the millions.

The message of support, via

The Northern Frontier Visitors Centre has served as a tourism hub for the city but structural issues have led to broken windows, cracked walls and sections of the building closing.
Shane Magee/NNSL photo

a Monday news release, came as the Northern Frontier Visitors’ Association plans to shutter the centre it owns and operates near Frame Lake due to structural damage caused by years of frost heaves.

The release was signed by Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart, Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne, Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green and Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly.

“If the government can find emergency resources to purchase assets from NTCL, certainly it can intervene in this case to ensure we have quality tourism infrastructure in place for the upcoming tourism season,” said Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart last week in an interview, referring to the GNWT’s purchase of Northern Transportation Company Ltd. assets in Hay River last year for $7.5 million.

The costs of aiding the visitors association may run into the millions. The association projects it needs $565,000 to $690,000 of public funding annually to operate from a temporary location. It also estimates demolishing and cleaning up the site of its existing building could cost $1.1 to $1.3 million over two years.

The four MLAs jointly called on the GNWT to cover those costs.

Kyle Thomas, president of the association, met government officials Monday as they try to secure an interim location for the centre.

Last week, the association members were told two options for relocation have been considered: a vacant storefront in the Bromley Building on Franklin Avenue and a former Department of Transportation location downtown.

“It’s going to be up to the government to decide where to move us,” said Tracy Therrien, executive director of the centre, at the association’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

A resolution passed at the meeting called on the city and territory to cover relocation costs, cover the cost of operating in a temporary site for up to two years and work to establish a government-owned tourism centre within two years.

A non-governmental organization shouldn’t be in the business of owning a multi-million dollar visitors centre, said Marion Lavigne, president and CEO of Outcrop Communications, at the Thursday meeting. Outcrop had examined options for the association.

Staying in the current building which opened Nov. 1, 1991 would be expensive.

Repairing the pilings that hold up the building up would cost an estimated $100,000 per year and removing a portion of the rear of the building would also be about $300,000, according to Lavigne.

The operating budget for the visitors centre in 2016 was $865,400.

Lavigne sketched out three long-term options for building a new visitors centre on the same property – though this time on more firm ground. They would cost between $2 to $5.25 million to build.

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency has stated it is prepared to offer up to a third of the cost of building a new centre if there are other committed funding partners, Lavigne said.