Just as Manitoba is known as the Keystone Province for its central position in the country, “locking the whole together,” so the Keystone Centre is a cultural, economic and commerce centre for the province, “locking together” the community and its people.
Located in Brandon, Manitoba, the Keystone Centre plays the role of community centre for the 1.2 million people who call Manitoba Home. More than just a conference centre, or arena, the Keystone Centre plays a daily role, predominately for south-western Manitobans.
Opened in 1973 after a $3.4 million build plan (approximately $20 million in today’s economy), the Keystone Centre has seen three major expansions, one in 1982, one in 1992, the Westoba Credit Union Agricultural Centre of Excellence in 2006, and the addition of the Canad Inn hotel now adjacent to the centre. A major interior redesign commenced in 2007, with renovations to the main arena in order to successfully hold the CHL’s Memorial Cup event. Today, the main 5,102-seat arena is named after Westman Communications Group, and is home to the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings and the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.
General Manager Neil Thomson says the Keystone Centre has a special place in the heart of the community, as it “works for and represents Southwest Manitoba.”
The ten-member board of Directors consists of two representatives from the City of Brandon, two from the Province of Manitoba and two from the Provincial Exhibition, in addition to four members at large from the community appointed by the Leadership Group.
The Keystone Centre features numerous halls for agricultural events and marketing shows, three hockey arenas, and the Brandon Curling Club. The events of the Provincial Exhibition, Brandon Wheat Kings and Brandon Curling Club are also located within the Keystone Centre and its property, “these are tenants who play an integral role in the success of the centre,” says Thomson.
The adjacent Canad Inns Brandon features accommodation and restaurants. “People can stay within the complex for a weekend and never have to leave,” according to Jason Krieser, Sales Manager.
Manitoba Under One Roof
The agricultural-based community of Brandon has experienced steady paced growth in population over a number of years, and the exhibitions at the Keystone Centre have reflected that. “We treat the Keystone Centre as a very significant community centre,” says Thomson. “On any given weekend you may have an agricultural event in the Westoba Agricultural Centre of Excellence, a youth hockey tournament in the Kinsmen and Optimist Arenas, a banquet in the Manitoba Room, a tradeshow in the UCT Pavilion and a concert in Westman Communications Group Place. This diversity in what we can support and what we can do for our clients helps us to stay on top.”
An extremely large facility at 540,000 square feet, the Keystone Centre is much larger than a centre typified for a community the size of Brandon (which is just over 46,000). A huge economic driver, the Keystone Centre hosts over 1,500 events during the year, and many sporting events, including the 1999 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, the 1995 Ford Men’s and Women’s World Curling Championships, and the 1997 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials. Recently, the Keystone Centre hosted the 2010 Memorial Cup.
“The Keystone Centre, due to its size, location and history of hosting agricultural events, is a key component to the community of Brandon and southwestern Manitoba.”
- Neil Thompson, G.M.
“The facility continues to allow groups to attract large and small agricultural events, which bring all sorts of visitors and businesses to Brandon. Brandon has historically been a key service centre for all things related to agriculture and the facility helps in attracting events that builds upon the city’s current strengths in this area.
Annually, the Keystone Centre hosts three important fairs; the Royal Manitoba Fair, the Summer Fair, and the Manitoba Livestock Expo (under the direction of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba). The Arabian Horse Association produces four championship events to champion the Arabian horse breeds, which fills the centre with fellow horse enthusiasts. From the 20 horse Western Days Clinic to the 600 horse World Percheron Congress, the Hereford sale of 38 head to the Manitoba Livestock Expo showcasing over 500 head of cattle, the Keystone Centre is purpose-built to accommodate agricultural fairs. A 200 x 85 show ring features a clay and sand arena, complete with permanent seating for 700 spectators, judges stand, sound system, and corridors adjacent to the show ring connects to a 150 x 65 practice ring and three stabling barns adequate to fit 158 stalls each.
“Versatility is the key to accommodating events of every imaginable activity and size, space connected to the Agricultural Centre of Excellence, the Canada Room, Exhibition Hall, City Square and two NHL size arenas have all been designed to easily convert into space to accommodate animals.”
These events equal more than the sum of their parts. Agricultural events like this help strengthen the ties to an agricultural economy, and serve to educate and inform the public on the work that goes into farming, cattle breeding, show horses and more.
“Looking to satisfy the needs of our current clients and expanding to better serve a growing and diversifying population in Brandon, the Keystone Centre is hoping to expand the facility with a fully functional and multi-purpose field house,” says Thomson. “Operating as a full scale indoor soccer pitch, we’re hoping that this facility will help to nurture and satisfy the growing desire for Soccer in Manitoba and Canada. In addition this expansion will allow us to handle even larger agricultural events at the facility”
This project will help to alleviate the constraints that come with a multipurpose, multi-room facility and the meet the need for a larger, open concept floor plan for some of the centre’s larger conventions and tradeshows.
The objective of the Keystone Centre staff is to continually push for an extremely high level of service to its clients. “Service at every level is exemplary, and our customers leave knowing that they have received the highest of satisfaction,” says Thomson. “If a problem does arise, or a complaint is issued we take it very seriously and ensure that it is corrected and does not happen again. This we feel is a large factor for our success.”
This, coupled with the sheer size and diversity that the facility offers, keeps the Keystone Centre an ever evolving facility at the heart of southwestern Manitoba.