Gimli council hears another over-water activity pitch

Twenty-One Ventures Inc. partners Gabriel Verrier (right) and Edwin Friesen present the idea of an over-water obstacle course playground on Lake Winnipeg to Gimli council at its meeting on March 13. Nathan Liewicki / Interlake Spectator

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GIMLI — Two weeks after Gimli council engaged in a fervent debate surrounding a prospective inflatable water park in Lake Winnipeg, another start-up company tried to sell council on why it wants to erect an obstacle course playground adjacent to the rural municipality.

Gabriel Verrier and his Twenty-One Ventures Inc. partner Edwin Friesen made the pitch shortly after the meeting started on March 13.

“The product is really well built … and it meets all of the safety codes,” Friesen told council. “It has really high safety standards and we’ve done some research on project requirements, the cost of it and we were hoping to set something up.”

Early on in the 25-minute presentation, Verrier noted he and Friesen would be able to set up the over-water playground, which would have a water depth of no less than 2.5 metres and include a strucutre as tall as 10 feet, as early as June.

“We are ready to go and set up. We have everything in place to get going,” Friesen added. “Sometime in the next two to three months, we can set something up and get started.”

Not so fast — possibly — councillor Thora Palson warned, noting that the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada can take up to six months to approve a project on Lake Winnipeg. She also said that start-up costs, due to investment into the likes of insurance, equipment, employment and infrastructure might end up costing more than originally anticipated.

Twenty-One Ventures had not contacted the federal department prior to presenting to Gimli council. 

Verrier and Friesen did, however, explain to council that the design, which was inspired by a German engineering project, would be the first of its kind in the province. There are about half a dozen other locations in Canada that have similar over-water obstacle park playgrounds.

That doesn’t mean that Gimli council was quick to agree to anything in principal with Twenty-One Ventures. Council knows how valuable a commodity the Gimli beachfront property is.

“The Gimli beach is a jewel and sought-after attraction,” councillor Peter Holfeuer said.

On Feb. 27, he opposed the motion to give Dana Desrochers until summer 2020 to open an inflatable water park that had been approved by the previous council on Sept. 12, 2018 — pending six provisions are met.

In order to operate their obstacle course, Verrier and Friesen also require a spot on the beach (they are looking at the north end, closer to the washrooms and parking area) to set up a kiosk to take payment for the attraction —$25 per day or $14 per hour are the early cost projections — and hand out lifejackets. The lifejackets would be worn by all customers, while they are supervised by a minimum of two staff members at all times, including at least one certified lifeguard.

That’s where the conversation was multi-sided with Twenty-One Ventures offering the RM a flat fee of $2,500 for the first year to operate on the beach.

Councillors Palson and Richard Petrowski said they were OK with the fee, but Holfeuer and mayor Lynn Greenberg noted the need to absorb at least 5% of the revenue the company makes.

RM of Gimli mayor Lynn Greenberg addresses the possibility of an over-water obstacle course playground on Lake Winnipeg, an idea which was presented at a council meeting on March 13 by Twenty-One Ventures Inc. Nathan Liewicki / Interlake Spectator

“We have to have some kind of fee, which is good because if you’re slow then you don’t pay much,” Greenberg said. “If you’re busy then you pay more.”

“What you are offering is insufficient in terms of revenue. Personally, I would base it on a percentage of sales and I’d take nothing less than 5% … to help offset the costs of using the beach,” Holfeuer added. “The concept is good. My biggest concern is the security and safety. I don’t know how you are going to secure that though the evening.”

Although Friesen and Verrier projected their first-year profits at $150,000, Verrier noted it could well be closer to the $100,000-mark, possibly even lower. Then again, he later noted 5% would be an acceptable fee.

The two sides agreed to speak on the proposal again, but not without Palson slipping in the prospect of a potential partnership with Desrochers beginning in 2020. Friesen was somewhat receptive of the idea.

“We would be open to having conversation with her,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule that out.”

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