Finding a new home for bingo

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The Bonnyville Bingo Association is asking for help finding a new home.

Representatives from the group appeared in front of the Town of Bonnyville council    during their regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 28, to request assistance while they try to find a new space.

“We require, give or take, 7,000 sq. ft. in order to have our washrooms, our office, and the area that we need to play bingo in. While we’d think that would be easy to find, it’s not,” expressed Anne Landry, president of the Bonnyville Bingo Association.

On June 25, the association learned their lease with the Bonnyville Centennial Centre Agriplex wouldn’t be renewed. It was decided that the facility would be better utilized if open for a wider variety of functions. The group got together with a local real estate agent, and the hunt for a new home began.

“With respect, we don’t have anywhere to go,” Landry explained. “We don’t have any money because we follow the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission rules, we aren’t allowed to save money, unless we ask permission to do that when we set up our budget. We didn’t do that because we didn’t know we had to move. It’s complicated for us.”

Their move to the Agriplex cost the association $50,000, money they couldn’t give to the charities they work with. They had to keep the funding to pay for the move, and the local groups that work the bingos didn’t receive it as a result.

Landry noted, they’re in a no-win situation, because “if we’re out, there’s a lot of people that are angry. If we stay, there’s a lot of people that are angry.”

They requested the town either renew the lease for another five years, extend their lease to give them enough time to save up for a new location, or assist them in finding a different space if they can’t remain at the C2.

“We’re asking for time, we’re asking for help, we’re asking do you know anybody that wants to build a hall? We pay $6,000 in rent a month, we pay on time. Can you help us maybe with snow removal? Can you work with the C2? Can you maybe get us an extension? This is incredibly time-consuming,” Landry said.

Mayor Gene Sobolewski said council had met with the C2 board regarding the topic.

“We don’t want to see bingo depart, we don’t want to see bingo close… but, what we have to do is try and move forward to see what can be done. Whether or not there can be partnership, because I know elsewhere in Alberta there’s a lot of community partnership, not municipal, but corporate and other things like that,” he said.

While the decision for bingo to leave the Centennial Centre hasn’t changed, the discussion about extending the lease leaned toward giving them some breathing room while they look for a new space.

“One of the heavy concerns, especially when we grant a one-year lease, what happens on projects, it’s a natural tendency that the urgency departs. We don’t want that to happen. We want to make sure the urgency stays, and we recognize fully at the C2 board that everybody’s working,” Sobolewski said, adding everyone involved was feeling the urgency to find the association somewhere.

An extension could be discussed if the lease expires in February and bingo is continuing to struggle with finding a place.

The main audience for  bingo is seniors, which limits the location the association can consider.

“Because we’re dealing with seniors, we can’t go out into the MD. In the winter time, it’s dark…We’re dealing with a different clientele that takes taxis, have walkers, or carpool. We’re dealing with whole different clientele,” Landry explained.

Coun. Ray Prevost suggested the group reach out to the ag society, which the association was reluctant to do.

“We were hoping to find somewhere, and it became pretty clear that we weren’t. Therefore we said, ‘okay, maybe it’s time to open up some dialogue.’ But, if we open up with the ag society that’s on town land. We don’t have money in the bank to build, that’s our problem,” she said, noting going too far out of town may lead people to go to other bingo halls with bigger pots.

Finding out where, and how, to move the bingo was a priority for council.

“We want bingo. We recognize the importance, and a lot of the groups that benefit. We want to make sure it goes forward, but we want to take a look at other business plans and other opportunities,” Sobolewski said.

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