If it will cut down on the confusion of who the decision-makers are, Finton Gaudette is all for a transition of governance of the Pepsi Centre from Memorial University of Newfoundland to the City of Corner Brook.
A working group comprised of members from Memorial University of Newfoundland and the City of Corner Brook will consider options and processes required to transition governance of the Pepsi Centre to the city. — Photo by Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
On Wednesday, it was announced a working group comprised of members of both entities would consider options and process required to do just that. Members of the working group have yet to be determined, but 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 used the Pepsi Studio.
“With the transfer going back to the city, I think there’ll be less confusion (about) who to deal with,” he said. “I think that will make things better.”
Although Gaudette said he can’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.
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Gaudette 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.
“We found that pretty frustrating as well,” Gaudette said. “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, said she hopes a transfer of governance would bring more support from the city.
“Right now there’s no recreation group under the City of Corner Brook, so hopefully it will drive that,” she said. “And get some increased focus towards the youth of the community. We haven’t had that support over the last couple of years.”
She’s very interested to see how a change of leadership will affect rental fees, particularly with potential improvements being made to the Pepsi Centre after a functional space plan consultation was held 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?”
Memorial, through the separately incorporated entity Western Sport and Entertainment, has operated 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 halfway through its second five-year agreement with the city to operate of the Pepsi Centre.
“We’re getting into midway through the second term,” said Grenfell Campus associated vice-president of administration and finance Gary Bradshaw. “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.
“Also,” he added. “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 possible transition as a positive and will continue to support and use of the facility. The only change would be it would no longer be the 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.”
Pender, meanwhile, said it’s a matter of switching the mandate to focus on trying to make 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. It will also look at adjustments to the schedule and the building to best accommodate current user groups and, hopefully, new ones.
“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,” he said. “Obviously, during school hours is more difficult, but from 4 o’clock onwards that place should be full.”
The governance transfer — which Pender stressed is no guarantee — could take several months to happen. The plan is have a discussion to see where both parties come together. If common ground is found, then the deal will proceed.
“When we say we want it to be a community building,” Pender said. “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.”