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Steinbach city council candidates have given their opinion on what recreation and culture facilities should be built in the city.

The ten candidates attended a forum Tuesday night sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. One of the questions asked was, "where do you stand on new facilities for recreation and culture, including location and how much money should be committed?" Each candidate was given 60 seconds to answer.

Damian Penner says recreation is at the heart of a community. Penner notes moving forward, council needs to focus on putting a plan in place.

"There have been plans that have come forward before but they've never actually been thought through full process to be able to go to the funding phase," notes Penner.

He says there is no way that Steinbach could have been successful in any recreation construction projects in the past because there was not unanimous consent on council to spearhead recreation. He notes that handcuffs council from trying to get private, provincial or federal funding.

"It's really important that council can unanimously come together for recreation facilities, not downtown where we don't have enough parking," he says.

Candidate Cyndy Friesen says recreation and culture opportunities need to be enhanced in Steinbach and she would support a multiplex.

"And that is why I am proposing an economic development office," says Friesen. "Where we can increase our tax base, so we can afford facilities like the mulitplex."

Friesen says she applauds past councils and community members who had the vision to see the need for facilities like the library and pool.

"And then I question, what are we doing today for our future, for our children and our grandchildren," asks Friesen. "So I think it's time that we need a multiplex."

Candidate Bill Hiebert says he too supports a multiplex.

"I look at our current arena which is over fifty years old," says Hiebert. "And when I listen to people that know the state of condition that it's in, it's pathetic, it's actually failing, so I would promote to get a multiplex built."

Hiebert says he believes the city can get federal, provincial and corporate support for this project.

"I don't think we need to increase our taxes a whole lot and I'm sure there would be some money that would be needed by the city," he says. "I think as we plan this, we can put this together and I think it can work."

Candidate Alan Wiebe says Steinbach needs its own performing arts venue and events centre. He suggests Steinbach Plaza in front of T.G. Smith Centre establishes Elmdale Street as the city's premier recreational district.

"Such a facility like this will invigorate the downtown with new economic development opportunities for both business and pleasure," he says. "Steinbach could host more out of town conferences, events and attendees from around the province, across the country and all over the world."

Wiebe says a mixed use facility for events should generate revenue for the space as a not for profit corporation operating at arm's length from the city. It is Wiebe's opinion that the facility should seek an appropriate flagship tenant to invest in the space within the scope of arts, culture and recreation.

"A self sustaining facility like this generates its own revenue and it is most needed because it will reduce taxpayer costs and minimize involvement from local government," he says.

Candidate Adam Crookes admits he is surprised how often the topic of a multiplex has come up in his door knocking.

"People want it built," says Crookes. "And I believe that we can be creative in how we can afford it."

Crookes says it would be a mistake to build this facility downtown. He suggests rather constructing it on the north part of Steinbach where there is better infrastructure for traffic and parking. And Crookes would like to see as many organizations as possible incorporated into that space.

"We do need to make it happen and now is the time," says Crookes. "I believe with an aggressive council that we can make it happen and it won't cost taxpayers any more money than it is already with the money that we are putting aside every year."

Candidate Susan Penner says putting everything in one location is a bad idea. She suggests arts should be kept downtown and that an indoor soccer complex should be built at the city's soccer park. Penner says an arena could be built on the north side of Steinbach, but not downtown.

"We hear so much about parking that if we put all the facilities together and there is an event at all the facilities in one night, we're still going to have a massive parking problem and we're going to need a massive parking lot to accommodate that," she says. "So I don't think that's the most efficient use."

Penner says by spreading these facilities around Steinbach it also brings vibrancy to more than just one area of the city.

"We are already putting way over one million dollars a year," says Penner. "I think whatever we do, we shouldn't raise taxes because we have a significant portion going to recreation."

Candidate Mitesh Kumar says a recreation and culture facility needs to be council's top priority. Kumar says in talking with residents, they want a facility without raising taxes.

"That's something which I stand by them," says Kumar.

He notes most people are also asking for this facility to be built away from the downtown because of parking and other issues. Kumar says a performing arts centre should be council's top priority.

Candidate Michael Zwaagstra says there are some smaller projects which are also important. He says at least one more splash park should be built in the city as they get a lot of bang for their buck.

"I would like to see a larger facility built, I'm not promising a multiplex, however I do think a new arena is a reasonable possibility in a non-downtown location," suggests Zwaagstra. "If we have enough private sector support and enough contributions from other levels of government."

Zwaagstra says if a new arena would cost $30 million and if they could get a total of $20 million from both private contributions and the upper levels of government, that would leave $10 million from the city to be used. Zwaagstra says that $10 million could come from the $2.5 million in their recreation reserve, with the rest from the million dollars they put into recreation.

"We need to do things we can actually do and not just things that look good on a piece of paper," says Zwaagstra.

Candidate Jake Hiebert says after knocking on doors for the past month, it is evident that people have a desire and see a need for both a multiplex and performing arts centre. He says the multiplex right now seems like a higher priority.

Hiebert says in return, he is asking residents to show him a viable business case, to identify how much a facility could cost, where the funding will come from, how much this might cost taxpayers and what it will cost to operate.

"I think those are very important things that seems everybody at the door wanted to know and people are interested," says Hiebert. "It's interesting how many people said I'm willing to have my taxes raised if I can see a value for my buck."

Candidate Jac Siemens says he also believes Steinbach needs new recreation facilities. He says Steinbach needs to replace its arena, needs a performing arts centre and a court-based facility for things like volleyball and basketball.

"Most importantly though when it comes to recreation facilities I believe an indoor soccer complex because it's low cost recreation for the participants," says Siemens. "The capital cost is higher but it's low cost for the participants."

Siemens says a performing arts centre should be built downtown, but all other recreation or culture facilities should go elsewhere.

"More importantly we need the correct financing, the correct model," he says. "We need to go hat in hand to the province and the feds and we need the funding that I think we deserve as a community so we can build these."


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