Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

Two Big Projects seek cash from Millennium Fund
WON'T BOTH WIN: Mayor Shirley McAlary says the Lily Lake pavilion project was never in competition with the Marco Polo Project.

Times Globe staff writer

    There's some tension between supporters of the Marco Polo project and supporters of a new pavilion at Lily Lake.

    Both projects are seeking money from the federal government's millennium fund, but it's not likely that both high-profile projects will be approved.

    Mayor Shirley McAlary, who is backing the pavilion project along with Common Council, has heard unofficially from residents who are concerned that the city is in competition with the Marco Polo for federal money.

    "The group that put the Marco Polo bid into the millennium fund have indicated to council, not directly to council, but there are sort of vibes in the community saying that we are in competition with the Marco Polo project," said Ms. McAlary, who said the pavilion is going to be listed as a priority by the city when it compiles its list of priorities shortly.

    "We were never in competition with the Marco Polo project," she said.

    Marco Polo project co-ordinator Barry Ogden said he doesn't want to talk negatively about things. He said he didn't know a lot about the city's pavilion project.

    But Mr. Ogden did say that he thought the city's focus should be on its waterfront.

    "I think everybody in the community thought that the waterfront was the focus," Mr. Ogden said.

    "So many people have said, 'Finally, we're going to move [on the waterfront].' Maybe that's why people are upset. "

    Ms. McAlary said the city supports the Marco Polo project, but doubts it could do so financially because of its price tag.

    "The city does not have funding to build the Marco Polo project ... that's a lot of money," she said.

    "Always, from Day 1, the city has supported the project."

    Ms. McAlary said she did not know how much money the Marco Polo project was seeking from the millennium fund.

    Mr. Ogden estimated that it would cost around $2.5-million to $3million to have a non-sailing replica of the famous ship built and docked at the port, complete with an interpretation centre, for example. Without an interpretation centre, the cost would be lower, he said.

   The cost of building a new pavilion at Lily Lake to replace the old and run-down one is projected to cost $1.7-million. The city is seeking one third of that cost from the millennium fund. It would finance another one third with tax money and would seek the remaining funding from local organizations and companies, said Ms. McAlary.

    Mr. Ogden said his group was still in consultation with the government and could not say how much it is seeking from the fund at this point.

    "We've been talking to them and we've sent in a lot of things," said Mr. Ogden.

    "The Marco Polo is certainly a national project [with] an international appeal. I think that's what the millennium fund is after. "

    The Marco Polo project has been ongoing for more than 12 years, pointed out Mr. Ogden, adding that it began its quest for millennium money in January.

    The city's pavilion project was approved by Common Council in May, said Ms. McAlary.

    "Council wanted to have a Year 2000 project," said Ms. McAlary. "They wanted to have a legacy to leave to the citizens of Saint John, so [they] wanted to come up with an idea that we could make happen in that year.

    "It had to be something that was practical that we knew could happen. We don't have a lot of money.

    "Regardless of what happens, we have to do something with the Lily Lake pavilion."

    The Marco Polo project has received positive response from federal government officials, said Mr. Ogden, pointing out that there is a Marco Polo stamp, Marco Polo books and a film, among other things.

    "Everything had been positive. And I'm getting very positive feedback from the new provincial government. "

    "Something that always holds Saint John back is the lack of focus and vision and togetherness."

    When the city gets together it does a great job, said Mr. Ogden, pointing to the success of the Canada Games in 1985.

    Ms. McAlary said many people in the Greater Saint John area would like to have a new facility at the lake.

    "Many, many, many organizations" along with Skate to Care and newlyweds and others have used the pavilion and want to continue using it, said the mayor.

    "It's so pretty out there ... winter or summer. "

    The pavilion and the Marco Polo project aren't the only projects which have submitted applications to the millennium fund, said Ms. McAlary, who added that the Cherry Brook Zoo and the Saint John Regional Library are two others she can think of.

The article below was published in the Times Globe, Tuesday, Oct. 12/99