Red Shores is in preliminary talks to expand its Charlottetown casino, The Guardian has learned.
Sources have told The Guardian that numerous private meetings have been held between management with Red Shores, the City of Charlottetown and the provincial government over the future of the Charlottetown Trade Centre, which the provincial government owns, and the adjacent Eastlink Centre rink, which the city operates.
However, the sources say there are a number of moving parts, that nothing definitive has been decided yet and things could go in any direction. One person describes it as a “tire-kicking’’ exercise, and it’s possible that nothing comes from the talks.
Red Shores has expressed interest over the past couple of years in expanding its casino and overall operation into the trade centre portion of the building, suggesting, among other options, a facility that could host shows similar to how things operate at Casino New Brunswick in Moncton.
The Guardian put in a call to David MacKenzie, general manager of Red Shores, but the call was referred to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC), which owns Red Shores.
Greg Weston, senior communications with ALC, would not confirm or deny any expansion plans, saying Red Shores is always open to exploring opportunities to improve the guest experience.
“The Red Shores team meets on a regular basis with Eastlink Centre about topics of mutual interest,’’ Weston said in an emailed statement to The Guardian. “We do not currently have any details to share about plans to expand our current operations.’’
However, the situation with the facility is certainly evolving.
For example, the city and the province recently terminated their joint management agreement with the Eastlink Centre.
A letter recently addressed to John Abbott, chairman of the Charlottetown Civic Centre Management Inc. (CCCMI), and Erin McGrath-Gaudet, deputy minister of economic growth and tourism, indicated the agreement between all three parties will end no later than Aug. 15, 2020.
City council also passed a resolution to dissolve the agreement. The resolution to send the letter notifying CCCMI of council’s plan of dissolution of agreement, which was put before council in mid-November, was passed 4-1. However Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said he thought the city should wait for the province to make the first move in the termination process, since the province owns the trade centre.
Sources also said that officials with government are surprised council acted as quickly as it did. A spokeswoman with the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture confirmed Thursday that a meeting had taken place to seek "clarity and reasoning on the city's decision to terminate the agreement'' but that no decisions have been made yet.
The agreement saw the CCCMI board mandated to run the entire facility as a profitable operation independently through a joint management agreement with the three levels of government, although most of the operational funding came from the city.
The letter of termination comes in the middle of the CCCMI search for a new general manager as Dave McGrath is retiring after more than 20 years on the job. McGrath was set to retire in the spring but agreed to stay on until Oct. 1 when a successor was expected to be chosen. He then agreed to stay on a little bit longer but his final day will be today.
Previously, The Guardian was told the hiring process has been held up and even frozen because consideration was being given to disbanding the board and having the city take over operations.
The letter does allude to a potential new GM but only under conditions that it would be “on a term basis’’ with the termination date be no later than Aug. 15, 2020, and the new GM’s primary function will primarily be to wind up operations of the CCCMI board by or before the Aug. 15 date.
Abbott said even though there is a lot of uncertainty right now it’s business as usual at the complex.
“We’ve got a great team running things,’’ Abbott said of the staff. “We will continue to manage things as if Dave was on vacation.’’
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