Miramichi Leader KRIS MCDAVID
MIRAMICHI (05/01/2014) Adam Augustine hears it all the time.
It’s not an uncommon occurrence for Metepenagiag First Nation’s director of operations to be pulled aside by somebody asking him when the band’s $2.8-million Riverside Entertainment Centre in Douglastown might be ready.
Augustine’s answer has typically been some variation of “when it’s ready”, but, after months of waiting, developers of the centre have set a date, with doors opening on Wednesday, May 7. According to the business’s official Facebook page, regular business hours will be from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
“We’re a week away, but it’s ready to open in a week and it’s going to be paid off 100 per cent with money coming from our (recent) land claim settlement,” Augustine said.
Construction of the facility wrapped up several weeks back, with everything basically ready to go.
However, following a snow storm in March, a portion of the canopy near the main entrance to the building began to sag unexpectedly, which delayed the centre’s opening by a few weeks while everything was inspected and the necessary repairs were carried out.
In the meantime, staff have been waiting patiently and even had a chance to do a dry run in early April after hosting hundreds of people during the Miramichi Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.
The centre features a banquet room and live entertainment space on its lower level with space to accommodate large functions, with the 160-seat Riverside Pub on its main level as well as 25 video lottery terminals and other Atlantic Lottery games.
The property at the corner of Douglastown Boulevard and King George Highway was acquired by the band through the provisions of a successful 2007 land claim agreement that allowed officials to buy 300 acres of land anywhere in New Brunswick. That claim was valued at $1.35-million.
Augustine notes the community is becoming more aggressive in harnessing land that it can use for economic development and, therefore, generate revenues that can be put back into the community for social programs and other initiatives.
The Riverside Entertainment Centre, shown, will open to the public beginning Wednesday, May 7.
Photo: Kris McDavid/Miramichi Leader
The Riverside centre was built with funds from a bank loan Augustine says the band will now be able to pay off thanks to a massive, $27-million land claim settlement announced a little over a week ago.
Over 50 people have landed jobs at the entertainment centre.
This is the first band’s first foray into this type of development, Augustine said. He said he hopes the entire Miramichi region rallies around it and helps ensure it becomes a staple in the city for years to come.
If everything is successful, he said it’s entirely possible Metepenagiag will continue to ramp up its economic development portfolio.
“We’ve got our own revenue stream, our own business and that’s money coming back to the people that we can reinvest in ourselves and hopefully make new opportunities in the future,” Augustine said.
The centre is not, as some in the community continue to refer to it, a casino. The only casino in the province is Moncton’s Casino New Brunswick.
Staff at the site will be able to communicate in French, English and Mi’kmaq, something Augustine said was important for the band as it looks to create an environment where everyone feels welcome.
The band first acquired a gaming licence from the Atlantic Lottery Corporation in 2010 under the watch of late chief Noah Augustine.
The gaming centre site is in the process of being designated as First Nations land, meaning that even though the centre is located within the city’s limits, it will technically be an extension of Metepenagiag First Nation, with all of the bylaws of that community applying on that piece of land.
When the land is converted, the city will receive a payment in lieu of taxes from the Metepenagiag First Nation. The band will pay the city the amount it has been paying in property taxes in the form of a service fee for fire, police, water, public works and access to other municipal services.
Essentially, the city is paid back a certain amount of money for the services it provides, but the site itself, as First Nations land, is exempt from taxation.