The city of Steinbach is getting a large, new, multi-million dollar event centre. And though it was Mayor Earl Funk and his council that was in power when the project turned from a dream to reality, previous mayors say the groundwork was established long ago.

The Southeast Event Centre will be located downtown, replacing the current Centennial Arena, and connecting to the existing community plaza, T.G. Smith Arena, Steinbach Curling Club and theatre.

It will be a multi-use venue that will accommodate cultural, economic and recreational uses and events. The main venue, a 2,500-seat spectator facility, is designed to accommodate the many needs of the community with multi-mode capacity for trade shows, ceremonies, concerts, ice-related use and recreational activities.

The Government of Canada is investing more than $9.5 million in this project through the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The Government of Manitoba is funding over $7.9 million. In October 2019 the City of Steinbach committed $10 million of City funds. The city also partnered with Southeast Event Centre Inc. who has pledged to raise the remaining $15 million in private funding.

The total cost of the project is expected to exceed $42 million, with construction anticipated to start no sooner than the summer of 2022.

we had no idea what was going to happen."

Helmut Pankratz, Les Magnusson and Chris Goertzen at Monday's announcement.Now, 15 years later, Magnusson is thrilled with the scope of the project.

"It's going to be nice sitting in a beautiful arena to watch the Pistons play against Niverville," he says. "It's going to be great."

The third former Mayor to attend Monday's ceremony was Chris Goertzen who served from 2006 to 2018.

"The reality is that we build on the foundations that other councils have left us," explains Goertzen. "And we were left with some very good foundations at that time and we continue to build that foundation. I think we even built a couple of walls of it, like the new curling club and the expansion here."

Goertzen says during his time on council, they had ideas for a new facility and bought land in the vicinity for a future project. He notes all of this paved the way for Monday's announcement.

"All that work gets us to here today where we can actually say, it's actually going to happen," adds Goertzen. "It's a very exciting day for the city."

Goertzen congratulates the present-day council for securing the necessary funding to make this project possible. He says over the years, there were many different plans discussed for what a potential facility could look like, all of them with pros and cons.

"And kudos to this council for saying, hey we want to take action and make it happen," says Goertzen. "And now we have these partners all coming together to make it happen, it's very exciting."

Meanwhile, Jac Siemens, who has served as Councillor for the city of Steinbach since 2006, was once the head of Steinbach's Parks and Recreation Department. Siemens filled that role from 1982 to 2000. Siemens says when he took over that position, the Steinbach Centennial Arena was already viewed as an old facility. That was when it was only 25 years old; today it is 54 years old.

Siemens recalls that when the T.G. Smith Arena was built in the mid-'90s, the expectation was that 10 years later they would add on a big new ice surface.

"It has taken that long," he says.

In hindsight, Siemens says he is thankful they did not build a new arena 20 years ago.

"Our vision was too small then," he says.

Siemens says back then they were considering a 1,500 seat facility. He thinks today's plan for 2,500 seats will be large enough for the next 20 to 25 years.

"I'm excited, this is fantastic that we finally have approval now to move forward," says Siemens. "I'm excited to be part of that final decision and be part of council led by Mayor Earl, but also Mayor Chris prior."

Siemens says it will be an amazing facility and he looks forward to when it finally opens. According to the City of Steinbach, stage one, which includes construction of the main arena is expected to last 18 to 24 months.