Andy Schwab, the new owner of the Fintry Queen, will be in front of Penticton city council tonight, pitching his dream of bringing the paddlewheeler to the southern end of the lake from Kelowna, where it has languished out of service for the last four years.
There is little doubt that Schwab has big dreams. He was also involved in an attempt to save another historic boat, the Pentowna, from being cut up for scrap metal in 2005 after it had sat rusting for nearly a decade beside a Kelowna golf club.
Built in 1948, the Fintry Queen was converted to a tourism operation in the 1960s, taking tourists on trips around the Kelowna area until 2008 when rising debt forced the operation into receivership.
Schwab, who bought the boat out of receivership last year, wants council’s support for his plans to build a $300,000 dock next to the Kiwanis walking pier to moor the boat. If he gets the go-ahead, Schwab said they could have 28,000 passengers next year, operating over a three-month period, and escalate to operating the boat almost year round by 2016.
“You could do it. It’s heated inside, we used to run in November and December. It’s very doable. It’s just a question of building up the traffic, who are you going to take where,” said Schwab. Bringing the boat to Penticton, he added, will mean anywhere from 40 to 60 jobs and $500,000 economic impact for the city.
Schwab said his operation won’t compete for tourist dollars with Penticton’s landlocked tourist icon, the SS Sicamous, or the operating paddlewheeler, the Casabella Princess.
“I think we will create more awareness of the whole waterfront. I think everyone will benefit,” said Schwab, who hopes to work together on marketing efforts with the Casabella and the Sicamous society.
“The stronger the marketing effort is from everyone, the more business we will all get. We will draw more traffic that they will all benefit from,” said Schwab.
Andy Seifert and his wife Barbara own and operate the Casabella Princess. He is far from convinced that Schwab’s plan is possible.
“We do not have as many tourists in Penticton as he needs to have,” said Seifert, who has operated the Casabella Princess for eight years. He questions Schwab’s projections the boat could operate into the fall and winter. Penticton tourism, he notes, slows considerably outside the peak summer season.
David Prystay, general manager of the nearby Penticton Lakeside Resort, said city council should support existing businesses, and that Schwab’s plan was a “no go.”
“I think we need to support our local businesses first, which is the Casabella Princess,” said Prystay. “I also looked at the proposal sent to me by the new owner of the Fintry and it was something I didn’t think made financial sense.”
Off-season tourism won’t support the Fintry Queen, and it would be hard to fill even in the summer, according to Prystay.
Check Wednesday’s Western News for Penticton city council’s reaction to Schwab’s presentation.