Working in the events industry during the COVID-19 pandemic has been described as an “emotional whirlwind” by Dean Clarke, the general manager of the South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC).
An announcement from the provincial government on Tuesday (Feb. 15) about lifting most COVID-19 restrictions, most importantly capacity restrictions, however, felt like the turning point on the road to normalcy.
“It feels a little different this time,” he told the Western News.
“I love the timing as we’re getting closer and closer to spring. Hopefully, we’re on the rebound.”
The SOEC previously announced it was able to host 100 per cent of its capacity starting December 2021. A surge in COVID-19 cases amid the Omicron variant spoiled those plans long-term, causing Clarke and the rest of his team to operate with uncertainty once again.
“It’s been difficult to start and then stop (with events),” he explained.
“I think in 2021, we had three weeks full of capacity and that was it. As far as revenue goes and events, that was our worst year… even worse than 2020.”
This week’s announcement from the province is one Clarke is thankful for, as the Penticton-based venue gets ready to welcome a number of star-studded acts into town.
Rock legends Alice Cooper, ZZ Top and Santana are on the docket for this spring at the SOEC, while famed band Foo Fighters will make their way to the Peach City in October.
“It’s a pretty awesome week when you can get full capacity and now we’re on our way to selling out a Foo Fighters show this October,” Clarke said.
“If we had been stalled and not doing anything, maybe this never gets done.”
Santana playing on April 2 will be the first concert at SOEC in two years.
The venue’s general manager still can’t help but think about the challenges he and his team had to confront over the last two years, particularly at the start of the pandemic in March of 2020.
“Having to let staff down, people who had purchased new homes and moved to this community to work in (the SOEC) were now being laid off and let go,” he recalled. “We were shrinking the size of our staff.”
Whether it’s through his praise of the staff members who serve guests food and drinks, or the customer service that is provided every time an event takes place, Clarke can’t wait to once again showcase the building to as many people as possible.
“I think there’s significant confidence when it comes to the people that put on shows, when there’s a big act that comes through the Interior, this is the place they’re going to play.
“The (Foo Fighters) show is going to be the biggest show in the Okanagan and for us to host it is a combination of the incredible work we’ve done.”
The Penticton Vees’ showdown against the West Kelowna Warriors on Friday (Feb. 18) will be the first time since the province’s announcement that the SOEC will be able to host 100 per cent of its capacity.
Tickets are available for purchase on valleyfirstix.com or in person at the arena’s box office.