By Karen Kornelsen
Undoubtedly, Old Market Square serves as a thriving hub for the Exchange District and downtown Winnipeg. It is host to numerous festivals and events every summer with over 60 days of active programming. It also serves as a gathering place for the many tourists, residents and workers in the area on a daily basis in the warmer months. It is an iconic and welcoming space and we hope to extend these sentiments to the colder months as well.
As most of you have now heard through the media, the Exchange District BIZ is working towards getting a skating oval at Old Market Square. We feel this would allow us to provide programming such as special events, concerts and other activities year-round at the Cube and add a vibrancy to the Exchange in the winter months, which is currently somewhat of a challenge for us. A skating surface would allow us to become a real winter destination with events like curling bonspiels, recreational skating, broom ball and more.
Last year, post-summer events such as the Jets Home Opener at the Cube, Culture Days and Nuit Blanche demonstrated the park can draw hundreds of people into the area in the colder months. The Exchange BIZ hopes to partner with the City of Winnipeg since some assistance is needed in making a skating rink a possibility. Assistance in creating the initial ice surface, clearing the ice after snowfall and daily maintenance are a few examples. One cost-saving measure we’ve come up with would be to keep the Cube Stage curtain open year-round instead of the City incurring the cost of opening and closing it twice a year. We feel these funds could be diverted to a skating oval instead. The BIZ is also looking at other solutions.
On July 11, 2016, a presentation by Exchange District BIZ Executive Director, Brian Timmerman, was made in front of the Standing Policy Committee On Protection, Community Services and Parks. In the presentation, the BIZ formally requested financial support and City expertise in creating an ice surface at Old Market Square. If the City were to build the ice surface, the BIZ is willing to partner with them and create exciting year round programming focused in and around the Park.
The Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks concurred in the recommendation of the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan Community Committee and referred the funding for winter programming at Old Market Square to the 2017 budget process. Further, the Standing Policy Committee on Protection Community Services and Parks requested that the Exchange District BIZ work with the City of Winnipeg to develop options for winter programing at Old Market Square.
“The BIZ envisions a unique four-season destination where one could skate and take in a concert at the same time,” said Timmerman. “Community events such as curling, broomball and sponge hockey would activate the park and provide for a truly great user experience. We are extremely happy with the standing committee’s recommendation and hope things move forward.”
The Exchange District is a thriving place year round with over 50 delectable restaurants including brand new additions like Chosabi, PEG Beer Co., Clementine and The List; over 50 unique local shops, and numerous entertainment venues such as the Centennial Concert Hall, the Manitoba Museum, Cinematheque, Royal MTC and more. These places are here year-round, even after the summer crowds are gone. The BIZ believes a skating oval and related programming will benefit Exchange District businesses during Winnipeg’s long winters and beyond.