Confusion keeps gates at Penticton arena closed to traffic

SOEC gates onto Ekchardt Avenue opened to the public on event nights despite its use being approved four years ago

Two gates blocking vehicular traffic between the parking lot of the South Okanagan Events Centre and Eckhardt Avenue got little use in their earlier years and it’s unclear why.

The gates are designed to allow two lanes of traffic in and out of the parking lot from the road, but it wasn’t until this fall that the exit lane was finally opened to the public on event nights despite its use being approved four years ago.

A permit issued by the Transportation Ministry to the City of Penticton in 2008 granted permission to open the gates only “for emergency purposes” and to provide an exit “to relieve parking lot congestion after major events.”

The permit, a copy of which was obtained by the Western News, does not allow use of either gated lane as an entrance from Eckhardt Avenue.

City engineer Ian Chapman, who signed the permit on behalf of Penticton, said the municipality did ask to have that use included, but the ministry insisted on an additional traffic study, which was later abandoned.

Chapman said the ministry was leery about opening up the gated lanes to regular in-and-out use because they connect to what is a provincial highway.

But despite one of the gates being permitted for use as an exit, it wasn’t actually put to work until this fall after clarification came at another local government’s meeting.

In September, a Transportation Ministry manager who appeared at a Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen meeting was asked why use of the gates was not allowed, and he answered that permission had actually been granted years earlier.

The response was in reply to a question from RDOS director and Penticton city councillor Garry Litke, who quickly relayed the news to Dean Clarke, who manages the SOEC for Global Spectrum.

“Since that meeting, except for one night, we’ve been using the outbound portion for exit of our events,” Clarke said.

He explained that the gates’ non-use was never really an issue until Litke raised it at the RDOS.

After “some further clarification and us really reading the fine print” though, and “seeing it maybe a little bit more necessary with some of our bigger events,” Clarke said, the exit gate has now started swinging more freely.