February 29th, 2024

A combination curling centre and music museum? Manitoba continues to mull

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press on January 21, 2024.

WINNIPEG – The future of a proposed international curling centre, combined with a museum that would pay tribute to Neil Young, Randy Bachman and other Manitoba music greats, appears to be in limbo.

The projects have been talked about separately for years, and were mashed together by the province’s former Progressive Conservative government, which called for bids on a development plan for a joint facility in 2020.

But two premiers and one pandemic later, there has been no public sign of progress, and the New Democrat government that was sworn in last October has not committed to the idea.

“We haven’t made a decision yet,” Glen Simard, minister of sport, culture, heritage and tourism, said in an interview.

“I can tell you we’re reviewing it closely.”

The curling centre of excellence was first proposed in 2018 by then-premier Brian Pallister, who had won a provincial mixed curling provincial in 2000. He touted the centre as a world-class training facility that would also be able to host international events.

The idea for a music museum and hall of fame goes back more than 20 years. People including John Einarson, a Winnipeg music historian and author, have pushed for a building to honour the province’s rich musical history.

“There’s so many people that think it’s a great idea, there’s so many good intentions from people that want to make it happen … but it’s still at that level where we need a commitment from the government to say ‘that’s a good idea, we’ll put some money in’,” Einarson said.

While Manitoba may be best known musically for baby boomer classic rock artists such as Young, Bachman and Burton Cummings, it also has been home to artists known widely in other areas of music. Einarson points to Indigenous musicians such as Vince Fontaine; Zara Nelsova, a cellist who performed with orchestras around the world; and Bob Nolan, a country-and-western singer who wrote songs in the 1930s that became international standards, such as “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”

Young has offered to donate items to the facility if it goes ahead, Einarson said. Einarson also envisions interactive exhibits that would, for example, let people play guitar to Bachman’s classic, “Takin’ Care of Business”.

The Tory government, in 2020, went so far as to issue a request for proposals for a business plan to develop a property in the Winnipeg area that would house both projects on at least 2.4 hectares of land, with 740 square metres set aside for the music museum and hall of fame.

There was no public mention of any progress after that, as the government dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Pallister resigned in 2021 and the next Tory leader, Heather Stefanson, led the party to defeat in last October’s election.

Simard was unable to say whether the province received responses to the request for proposals. He said the government is reviewing the project based on a number of factors.

“We have to make sure that people look back at the decision and say it was the right one. And that is, as you can imagine, fairly complex,” he said.

Einarson said he met recently with a senior provincial bureaucrat to discuss the music museum, and is not giving up hope.

“I’m forever hopeful that this thing could happen, but it’s been a long haul with nothing to show for it but good intentions.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2024.

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