Winkler's ambitious new arena expansion kicked off its 16-18 month construction Thursday.

The Meridian Exhibition Centre and its second arena and indoor turf facility are expected to be in use spring of 2020.

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder notes the idea of a second arena has long been discussed by the city, including the idea of a regional facility built outside city limits, with the decision ultimately settled on building within town. "We looked at the feasibility of putting it somewhere where there isn't any transportation available, but how do you get there? The decision was made, we have the capacity here to do it."

Financing for the $17 million facility has been awarded to the Province of Manitoba at a rate of 4.25 percent for a 20 year fixed term.

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder notes there are still numerous naming rights opportunities that will help offset costs.

Harder says the project will have an impact on taxes moving forward, adding council hopes to include a separate line item on the tax bill, "so the community as a whole can clearly see this is what it costs us to maintain this facility, and this is what it costs us to build this facility."

The tax increase will be based on the assessment of property values.

Harder notes there are still numerous naming rights opportunities that will help offset costs.

However, with a larger facility, the city also hopes to attract major concerts that have passed over Southern Manitoba in the past. Harder notes hosting a banquet with 500 people is drastically different compared to the ability to hold a gala for 1,200. "It's a whole different ball game."

"Hopefully we can attract bigger events to this region that are not just competing with something else, but adding additional capacity for events we've never had before."

Meanwhile, the current Winkler Arena's ice plant will be operational Friday just in time for a Pee Wee hockey tournament. The sudden mechanical failure of the city's ice plant November 1 caused a four-week shutdown.

The project is expected to be complete by 2020