Shania Twain Centre Closes After Costing Taxpayers More Than $10 Million
A tourist attraction devoted to country star Shania Twain in the singer's tiny hometown of Timmins, Ont. was supposed to be the local answer to Dollywood -- an attraction celebrating their most famous export that would bolster the struggling local economy. Instead, the Shania Twain Centre closed its doors without fanfare on Feb. 1 of this year after failing to meet financial expectations virtually since the day it opened, ultimately costing taxpayers more than $10 million.
Twain was at the height of her enormous fame in the late '90s when the attraction was first proposed and plans were drawn up. She shot to fame with the 1995 album 'The Woman in Me,' while the 1997 follow-up 'Come on Over' went on to sell more than 40 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album ever by a female artist.
Twain's hardscrabble childhood in the remote mining town was the stuff of legend, and the Shania Twain Centre must have seemed like a surefire way to bring revenue to the impoverished community. Planners projected that the attraction would bring 50,000 visitors a year to Timmins, thereby bolstering local restaurants and hotels as well.
“The projections were extremely ambitious,” Guy Lamarche -- the city's current tourism manager, who was not on the job at that time -- tells Macleans.ca. “When people come forward to support projects, and bring a huge passion to projects, sometimes things get skewed. And in this case the projections never materialized -- they were way off.”
Instead, the center cost around $10 million to build, but has never attracted more than 15,000 visitors in any given year since it opened. It would have required more than double that number just to break even. The attraction has cost taxpayers an additional $1 million in operating deficits.
“We probably should have taken a better look at the numbers to ensure the expectations could be met,” Mayor Tom Laughren admits. Laughren was not the mayor at the time of the planning.
Officials say Twain and her management company have been very supportive over the years, but the writing was on the wall last May, when Twain's management team took back many of the items on display, including a tour bus. Those items now reside in splashier digs in Las Vegas, where the 47-year-old singer is performing a residency at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace. ‘Shania: Still the One’ opened in December, and is slated to run for two years.
A financial analysis projected that Timmins would continue to lose $233,000 every year on the Shania Twain Centre no matter whether the city council chose to scale back or expand the attraction. They chose to sell the property to Goldcorp Inc., a mining firm that hopes to exploit the value of the gold that's seeded in the ground underneath. Goldcorp paid just $5 million for the land -- half of what the attraction reportedly cost taxpayers to build.
Goldcorp will officially take possession of the land in June. In a bitterly ironic twist, the attraction that has been a money pit will be razed entirely to make way for a massive open pit mine.