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Downtown diamond tourism centre still going ahead

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Last summer, Mayor Gord Van Tighem, Bob McLeod, then minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, and the president of Crossworks Manufacturing Ltd. gathered at the downtown Cascom building to announce the creation of a diamond exhibition space.

Described as the next step in diamond tourism and "a landmark in Yellowknife for many years to come," the diamond centre was to be opened in January.

While the ambitious target date has come and gone, the project is still going ahead, Crossworks spokesman Dylan Dix has confirmed to Yellowknifer.

"There have been delays but this project will definitely be complete in September or October 2012," Dix stated, noting such an exhibition space has "never been done before" and the company did not have experience in the creation of such an exhibit—which would include Northwest Territories diamond artifacts, videos detailing the processes at mines, and demonstrations of diamond polishing.

"Rather than rush the program, we wanted to create something that would meet our expectations," Dix stated.

The interior of the building has been framed, Dix said, and it is now down to the finishing of the flooring and walls, but from the outside, the Cascom building appears relatively unchanged.

Ogre's Lair Game Shop and CasCom Communications and Computers are two businesses that were forced out of the Cascom building to make way for the start of construction of the tourist centre last fall.

Ogre's Lair owner James Croizier, whose game shop has found a temporary location in the Roman Empire building, wonders if his business still could have been operating at its old space. He is not surprised that the tourism centre has not yet been completed.

"They've got no real compunction to do it fast," Croizier said, noting the diamond company has a multi-year lease on the space and as long as the building is empty, it is not spending money on operating the centre. "If anything, the faster they complete it, the more money it'll cost," he said.

Construction at the 49 Street venue, which is already home to the Crossworks diamond polishing plant, has been ongoing for some time, Dix said.

The design for the exhibit is "well underway" he added, for the diamond business educational centre where people will be able to "see by themselves how things are transferred from Mother Nature's crystals to diamonds jewellery," as Crossworks president Uri Ariel described it.

"A facility where visitors can observe how Northwest Territories diamonds go from mine to storefront will be an excellent attraction," McLeod said at the announcement of the exhibit last August. "Crossworks' announcement today is yet another step in our territory's development of a sustainable diamond industry."

Van Tighem said Monday that he is glad the project is still going ahead.

"I was happy when it was announced," he said. "And the delay will give them the opportunity to get it right.

"We've been branding Yellowknife as the Diamond Capital of North America for 13, 14 years now and people come here expecting to see a diamond mine but the diamond mines are way up North. Expecting to see how they're cut and polished, but cutting and polishing is done behind closed doors, so what this does is it gives people the opportunity, in addition to the Diavik display and the Frontier Visitors Association display, of seeing on an almost daily basis the things that they've actually come here to see ... other than Ice Road Truckers and Ice Pilots."

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