Weekend a crowd pleaser
What a weekend for our South Okanagan Events Centre complex. I attended events on Friday and Saturday, plunking down a little money each of those days: to enjoy one of the best concerts Penticton has ever hosted; to watch a little hockey action; and to walk through the very successful 19th CHBA Home Show. Everywhere I turned, people were enjoying themselves in one or another corner of what may be the best event and trade centre in all of British Columbia.
About four-and-a-half years ago, Penticton threw open the doors of a brand-new $84 million events centre… and proceeded to incur serious operating losses. There were several reasons for this, including unrealistic original projections, a downturn in the economy, learning curves on behalf of management and the city, etc. That led to the creation of the South Okanagan Events Centre select committee, which for the last four years has overseen all of Global Spectrum’s operations on behalf of city council. I am pleased to serve as the city’s chairman of this select committee, along with Couns. Garry Litke and Andrew Jakubeit, Chuck Loewen of the city, and fellow volunteers Dave Bushby of Valley First, Duane Jordan of the Pasta Factory and Don Kendall, chair of our annual Peachfest celebration. All of us have invested our time and efforts, alongside our Global Spectrum partners, to help realize the goal of making ever-better use of our fabulous physical assets, while striving to generate better value for the taxpayer dollar.
In the last two years, we have seen a marked turnaround in the business operations of the overall complex, which includes the Trade and Convention Centre, Memorial Arena, certain operations in support of the Penticton Vees and the Okanagan Hockey School, as well as the event centre itself. This includes a steadily declining operating deficit; significant increases in cost recovery ratios; and an increasingly beneficial economic impact in our city. Practically, that means you, the tax-paying citizen, are contributing less and less each year to receive more and more benefits from your SOEC: More — and better — concerts and events; more — and bigger — trade shows and conventions; more hotel rooms and restaurants filled for entire days or weekends; the list goes on.
And this weekend’s activities at the SOEC complex summed it all up neatly. Friday night’s concert was the biggest ticket-selling event we have ever had at the SOEC. What that meant operationally was that GM Dean Clarke and his extremely dedicated Global Spectrum staff had to plan for handling their biggest crowds ever: how much security to have on hand; how many hot dogs to order; how many personnel to call in, etc. The big crowds at the front gate were smoothly processed into the facility; food and beverage stations were added all around the concourse; and the Global team even wheeled in extra bathrooms to accommodate the crowds. And the show? Well, all I can say is that those in attendance got to enjoy one of the finest entertainment performances we’ve ever seen. Up-and-coming country star Eric Church sure knows how to work a crowd.
Then the home builder’s annual show opened for business on Saturday in the Trade and Convention Centre, attracting thousands of visitors; the Vees played another home game Saturday night in the SOEC building; and somewhere in between all that, a minor-hockey tournament was taking place at the OHS section of the complex.
And when the weekend came to a close, our Global Spectrum employees and managers had earned a well-deserved rest, and a dream had been realized. In the middle of winter, during what is usually the slowest time of the year for most local merchants, our South Okanagan Events Centre complex produced multiple events across the entire complex; bringing thousands of visitors to Penticton, entertaining thousands of locals and generating a huge economic impact in town. I would say our “white elephant” left behind some mighty big footprints this weekend.
Mark T. Ziebarth, chairman
SOEC Select Committee