After delay, Town staff searching for new canteen operator at Sports Complex

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer
abradbury@fortfrances.com

After laying dormant for over a year, attempts were made to reopen the canteen at the Memorial Sports Complex in November of this year, under the management of the former operator. However, after a few attempts, that operator has pulled out, but did not formally do so until Dec. 8.

In a report, Aaron Bisson, Manager of Recreation and Culture, submitted to Fort Frances Town Council, he detailed the woes of trying to re-open the canteen for the hockey season under the former operator.

At last night’s meeting of the Committee of the whole, Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft said he wanted the people of the town to know that the Town and Bisson have been working on getting the canteen open.

“The Town, and in particular Aaron Bisson, has been receiving a lot of heat over the canteen not being open. I think the general public has to know that we’ve been working to get this canteen open since the beginning of November,” Wiedenhoeft said. “It was going to open, we had an agreement with the old operator, it was going to be opened on Nov.12. That didn’t work out, he was going to open it on Dec. 3, but that didn’t work out and ultimately on Dec.8, the operator withdrew from the contract.

Wiedenhoeft commended Bisson for his efforts in trying to get the canteen open.

“It’s not as though Aaron hasn’t been working his butt off to get this thing open,” Wiedenhoeft added. “It’s just that we haven’t had the co-operation from the original operator.”

Bisson has been contacting local food service providers to see if they are willing to work out of the space and serve the people using the Memorial Sports Complex.

“I’ve reached out to a number of businesses or individuals or people who are providing catering services in the community. If the recommendation moves forward, I’m going to continue doing that,” Bisson said. “I’m just going to try and get this thing open as soon as possible. But that’s not going to be the only criteria, we have to make sure that the service that’s going to be provided out of there is something that we’re used to seeing. I want to make sure that we can get the greatest benefit out of the canteen for the people that use the facility and for the Town as well.”

Bisson said it won’t be as simple as just giving someone the keys either but they would like to get someone in place as soon as possible for the short term and then issue a request for proposals for a long-term occupant for the space starting in the summer.

“One of the limiting factors is staffing and I know a number of the potential operators are dealing with staffing issues, and staffing issues are ultimately what tanked the two potential options from the previous operator, Bisson said. “So there are a lot of obstacles unfortunately in this industry at this time, but we’re moving forward, trying to make it work.”