By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The Morinville Community Cultural Centre will see elbows as well as oboes this summer after Morinville Town Council voted 6-1 in favour of allowing Art of Conversation Morinville (AOC) to bring a wrestling show to town this August. The promoters are looking to provide a family-friendly event with six wrestling matches and a half-time show. But the idea of wrestling in a venue that will later this year begin a concert series that will include ballet, concert pianists and other traditional cultural events raised a few eyebrows as to the suitability of the event.
Administration brought the request to councillors at the June 28 meeting of Morinville Town Council, seeking their direction on whether to allow the event or to have administration draft a policy of just what types of events would and would not be permitted at the new $11 million facility.
Morinville’s Director of Community Services, Susan MacDonald, said she had contacted similar centres in Fort Saskatchewan and St. Albert and learned wrestling would not be permitted at those venues. In listing the pros and cons, MacDonald pointed out permitting the wrestling event might open the door or set a precedent for more extreme sporting events.
After hearing the background information, Councillor Ben Van de Walle moved for directing administration to draft a policy on permissible events to be returned to council by the end of August, a motion that would have denied AOC request to book the centre for the event. Van de Walle’s motion was defeated 6-1, the veteran councillor casting the only supporting vote.
In discussing the motion, Councillor Lisa Holmes said she did not believe it was council’s place to determine what is and is not a cultural event. “We’re on a slippery slope when we decide who can and cannot hold a private event,” Holmes said, adding she felt wrestling was less of a sporting event than local dance performances or gymnastic demonstrations. “Developing policy [on the types of events]sets a law that would be enacted.”
It was an opinion shared by the majority of councillors, including Councillor Nicole Boutestein. “In my opinion, if they are paying the same rate as anyone else, it’s theirs,” she said. “I don’t think a policy should stop it.”
Deputy Mayor Gordon Boddez was the most vocal in supporting a diversity of events at the new centre. “To me it is a multi-purpose facility,” he said, adding the facility was built first and foremost for the residents and that council did not know what the citizens want in terms of events. “We’re learning through experience. The community is saying to us we want to try an event. It’s not something that’s outrageous.”
The Deputy Mayor said it may turn out that wrestling is not an event that works or fits with the cultural centre but that no one will know until it’s tried. “I think we should experiment,” he said. “The time to set policy is after.”
Councillor David Pattison agreed with Deputy Mayor Boddez that the town should look at various options for events. “I have nothing in front of me that says a family wrestling event is contrary to what we have set for community cultural centre,” Pattison said, noting he did have some concern about food being taken to the bleacher seats.
Mayor Lloyd Bertschi was also supportive of the event, but also expressed concerns about food in the bleachers. “I would hate for anyone of us to sit in hot buttered popcorn,” the mayor said.
A motion to allow the event was passed with a 6-1 vote, Councillor Van de Walle casting the only opposing vote.
Note of disclosure: The author of this article is part of the group bringing the wrestling show to town.