Arena expansion plans in Burns Lake upset local business

Local business owners concerned about Village of Burns Lake's plans for a fitness centre

Owners of local business, Lakes Fitness Centre, are concerned that the Village of Burns Lake’s plans for a fitness centre to be included in the Tom Forsyth Memorial Area expansion would be unfair competition.

Owners Bonny Gibson and Susan Schienbein, who is also a member of village council, recently wrote a letter to the village expressing their apprehension about a fitness centre and work out gym that has been included in the arena’s expansion plans.

As reported in the Lakes District News edition of April 11, 2012, the province is chipping in $2.4 million in funding to the approximate $3 million arena expansion project.

Once constructed the 10,000 square foot building will join the existing arena and curling rink and will contain a squash court, a climbing wall, a children’s indoor play area, fitness centre and workout gym, a physical therapy area and a multi use area.

In the letter, Gibson and Schienbein congratulated the village on the successful application to fund the project however they said, “Our congratulations is somewhat tempered by the announcement that the expansion will house a workout gym. We believe this is a simple oversight on the part of the municipality and that hard earned tax payers dollars will not be used to duplicate services that already exist within the community. If this is not an oversight then we don’t need to explain that a publicly subsidized gym will kill our business faster than any terrible industrial accident to a major employer or poor business practice ever would.”

The letter was discussed by council, after Coun. Schienbein excused herself from the table citing a conflict of interest.

“I think this letter expresses some valid concerns and after talking to council and village staff we are looking at the potential for a gym [in the area expansion] but we would be going to the public for their opinion and could possibly lease the space to a local business,” Mayor Luke Strimbold said.

Councillor John Illes said, “It is quite critical to have a gym included in the arena expansion. It is worth presenting the option [to lease space] to local businesses as we don’t want to run the gym ourselves.”

Councillor Frank Varga expressed concerns about allowing a private business to operate from within a public facility.

“What would the liabilities be?” he asked.

Sheryl Worthing, chief administrative officer said the matter is as simple as writing up a lease agreement.

“Lots of facilities do it with concessions and gyms. I have been in a lot of arenas that have concessions run this way. They have their own insurance and WCB and they offer a fair market value for rent.”

Mayor Strimbold said he would like to offer a response to the owners of the Lakes Fitness Centre.

“We need to inform them that we will be going through a public engagement process and that we are interested in leasing out the space for a fitness centre and gym to a private entity.”