In 15 years, Shania Twain Centre went from idea to reality to rubble
By Len Gillis, QMI Agency
December 5, 2014
The iconic Shania Twain Centre was demolished on Wednesday December 3.
TIMMINS, Ont. - After nearly 15 years as a hoped-for iconic tourist attraction in Timmins, Ont., the Shania Twain Centre fell to a pair of wreckers' shovels on Wednesday.
The building that was admired by fans and tourists from around the world is now nothing more than a pile of rubble waiting to be trucked away so that drilling and blasting work can continue on Goldcorp's Hollinger open-pit mine.
Planning for the building began in 1999 and the centre officially opened on Canada Day 2001.
It was cold, rainy, drizzly and just a miserable July day.
Shania was unable to be at the opening because she was pregnant at the time.
Hardcore fans were able to cope with the Timmins weather, including 21-year-old Ben Abruzzi who drove 18-hours from Massachusetts to be the first person in line for the public opening. He was pleased with his visit.
"It was phenomenal. It was more than I could have hoped for," Abruzzi said at the time.
Tim Hudak, Ontario's Tourism minister at the time, said the centre was "outstanding."
"Timmins has put itself on the map."
Will Saari, then tourism manager for the City of Timmins, made some prophetic comments.
"The trick now is to keep people interested in coming back and piquing the interest of first timers," Saari said. "The focus is to keep the momentum going. We're going to make sure it's well marketed."
The $5-million centre was expected to be the lifesaving tourist attraction Timmins sorely needed.
If Springhill, N.S., could have a building dedicated to Anne Murray, certainly Timmins would do well to have a centre honouring the woman who was the best-selling female country music star in history.
That was the plan. For the first few years, it seemed to be working. Dozens of fans from across North America gathered in Timmins every summer to celebrate all things Shania, and it was all centred at the Shania Twain Centre.
Shania finally visited the centre in 2004.
Part of the popularity was the fact the centre was partnered with a historic gold mine tour.
In the first year of operation, there were roughly 12,500 visitors. More than 7,600 went to the Shania Centre. Less than 5,000 took in the gold mine tour.
In the second year, attendance peaked at 14,567; there were 6,203 at the mine tour and 8,364 at the Shania centre.
Gradually interest in both the tours began to drop off and the attractions were running in the red to the tune of about $320,000 per year.
Tourism consulting expert Fran Hohol presented those facts to Timmins city council in 2011. Hohol said the centre could still assist overall tourism in the city. She explained that every dollar invested in tourism by the City of Timmins, tourists spent more than three dollars in the city.
Hohol also told city council that neither the Shania Twain Centre nor the Gold Mine Tour was going to make money. It was a net loser she said. She said other attractions are also net money losers, but rely on government subsidies.
In 2012, Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines was outlining detailed plans for the Hollinger open pit, but gave assurances the drilling and blasting and other mining procedures would not hurt the Shania Twain Centre.
Around the same time, many items in the museum were relocated to accompany Shania’s upcoming slate of shows in Las Vegas.
In January 2013, the city announced it had been negotiating with Goldcorp PGM and declaring the centre "surplus to the city's needs."
Within a week, City Hall revealed that Goldcorp PGM was willing to pay $5 million for the STC building and the goldmine tour.
The centre closed February 1, 2013.
For some, it was vindication for their feelings that the centre was a waste of money and not necessary. For others it was a sign of failure. Timmins had made a first-class effort toward the If-You-Build-It-They-Will-Come idea, but for whatever reason, the people didn't come.