With eyes toward the future of the site, members of the Portage la Prairie City Council visited what remains of the Agassiz Youth Centre earlier this month. Councilors Preston Meier, Colin Doyle, Joe Masi, and Mayor Sharilyn Knox toured the newly acquired land and buildings to gather accurate and informed knowledge.

Mayor Knox says this visit was intended to help the council make well-informed decisions about the property's future utilization.

"I think the Agassiz Center is a big piece of Portage la Prairie's history," she continues. "I just think there are a lot of stories there. The place employed a lot of people throughout its time in our community, and it served its purpose for what we needed when we needed it, but I can honestly say I'm glad to see it go and move on to new things."

Knox notes that she is excited for the future of this beautiful piece of land.

"We've got some big decisions to make, and we need to find some interest in that area from developers, and that's what we as a city will do. We are going to be working with our economic development and reaching out to people who might be interested in doing something with that property.

Councilor Masi tells PortageOnline that going through the buildings and the site was an exciting venture.

"I really was amazed at the history that the site had for Portage la Prairie. I did a little bit of research, and my understanding is that the doors opened in February of 1910, which goes back to some of the earliest times in our city and Manitoba," continues Masi. "Walking through those buildings and the facility. I thought, 'if these walls could talk,' imagine the stories and the history of our community that they could tell from both the people that  worked there and also the young people that were incarcerated there."

file photoCouncilor Masi & Mayor Knox.

Masi adds that he had mixed feelings about the tour as he was saddened to see a historic site end a chapter. However, he knows what lies ahead will be the start of something new and hopefully great.

Councilor Colin Doyle says it was exciting to participate in such an excursion.

"I had never been in the facility whatsoever, and there's definitely some wear and tear on the older buildings, that's for sure. it was almost taking a time machine into the past a little bit and especially walking into some of the older cottages, it was really quite a sight. I'm very fortunate to have had the ability to tour it."

Former Portage la Prairie Mayor Irvine Ferris accompanied the visit, for which all parties were thankful. Ferris worked in the centre from 1979 to 2010 and had some insights that only a former employee could bring.

"The tour was to look at the land and the existing buildings; of course, a number of them have been demolished for construction of the new hospital. So, the city has received that portion of land from the province that isn't being used to construct the new hospital. They're looking at the next steps. It's a prime piece of real estate and a great location. It's got huge potential for the community."

file photoCouncilors Meier & Doyle, with former Mayor Ferris.

Ferris explains that the tour for him was bittersweet.

"It was a great employer in our community that had 110 jobs.  It's great to be seeing the place one last time. But I am looking forward to what the future holds for that property. I think the city will do a great job of redeveloping and repurposing it."

The Agassiz Youth Centre officially closed its doors in July 2022.