Twain Centre shutters its doors
TIMMINS, Ont.—A tourist attraction celebrating country-pop singer Shania Twain officially has become a $10-million money pit of taxpayer dollars.
The Shania Twain Centre in this Northern Ontario community permanently closes its doors today—barely a dozen years after its grand opening—and will be demolished to become part of an open-pit gold mine.
Grant applications to the Ontario and federal governments in the 1990s projected annual attendance of 50,000 tourists by 2005.
Twain, now 47, grew up poor in Timmins, and got her fledgling start singing in local bars before striking it rich on the world stage in 1995.
But the sleek, modern structure, featuring displays of Twain memorabilia along with gold-mining artifacts, has drawn no more than 15,000 people in any year.
In the end, every resident of this hardscrabble, century-old mining town of 47,000 was shelling out $7 a year just to keep the lights on.
And by 2010, each visitor to the centre was being subsidized to the tune of $33.72.
It was supposed to be the other way around, with the centre generating enough revenue to at least break even—that would require about 33,500 paying visitors annually—while filling local hotels and restaurants with tourists.
“We probably should have taken a better look at the numbers to ensure the expectations could be met,” Mayor Tom Laughren said of the planning that happened long before he took office.
A 2011 financial analysis showed Timmins city council faced continuing operating deficits of at least $233,000 a year no matter what future business plan it chose, whether expansion or scaling back.
So council last month announced a deal to sell the property to mining firm Goldcorp Inc. for $5 million—just half of the tax dollars spent for construction.
Goldcorp, which officially will acquire the property June 28, plans to demolish the structure to make the gold-seeded land underneath part of a massive open-pit mine being developed adjacent to the town.
Recent media reports have suggested the centre cost as little as $3.7 million to build.
But a May, 2011 analysis by PKF Consulting Inc. in Toronto said the figure actually was about $10 million for all construction, including the building, site development, and upgrades to the co-located gold-mine tour attraction.
The entire 65-acre site is to be razed, including the gold-mine tour facilities, and added to Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s planned open pit.
For the last week, local residents have been picking over merchandise at the gift shop offered for up to 75 percent off, including hockey jerseys emblazoned “STC.”
The sale was expected to bring in at least $25,000.
The sad end of the once-bright hopes for the centre began last May, when Twain’s management company repatriated most of her memorabilia—including an entire tour bus—to Las Vegas, where the singer now has a regular show.