SOEC shows signs of improvement

Ten years from now, we may all be talking about what a wonderful facility the South Okanagan Events Centre is and how lucky Penticton is to have it.  But right now, many people are likely to be calling it a white elephant.

Global Spectrum announced this week that everything is fiscally on track for 2011 and they are projecting the SOEC complex will finish the year ahead of budget. Sounds good, until you consider that the forecast was to finish 2011 with a deficit. Losing less money isn’t a solid fiscal foundation.

The SOEC is at least headed in the right direction financially. The building has stopped hemorrhaging money, but at what cost?

One cost is leaving the building empty. It’s only been open for events 40 days so far this year, and 12 of those days were for Vees games. Global, in consultation with the SOEC advisory board, has been more careful about the artists and other shows they bring in, limiting openings to those sure to make money, or at least break even.

When the only way to meet a deficit budget is to keep the building closed most of the time, with even the main tenant, the Vees, struggling to fill more than 1,000 seats in the 5,000-seat arena, it can certainly be argued that the complex is more than the community needs. And it is.

But while the building may seem too big and expensive now, the costs of waiting to build such a facility until it is absolutely necessary for this growing community would be exponentially greater than the 2008 price tag. Despite early inflated expectations, it takes a while to turn a facility like this into a money earner, or even get to the point where it pays its own costs.

Call it a white elephant if you like, but the SOEC isn’t going anywhere. The only way to move forward is to make decisions that will not only keep building its reputation, but lose as little money as possible. Although it would be nice to see a few more shows so taxpayers could see where there money is going.

— Penticton Western News

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