Andy Schwab, the new owner of the Fintry Queen, found some sympathetic ears at Penticton city council Monday, when he pitched them 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.
Both Kelowna and West Kelowna have turned down proposals to have the boat moored on their waterfront, but Penticton council voted 5-2 to endorse the concept of creating a moorage in Penticton for the boat and directed staff to investigate the plan further with Schwab.
Couns. Katie Robinson and Judy Sentes were opposed to the idea.
Robinson said while the plan was good in theory, she was concerned both about the timeline, which would see the boat operating by next summer and the proposed location, next to the Kiwanis walking pier “right in the middle” of the Okanagan Lake waterfront.
Coun. Andrew Jakubeit was one of the strongest supporters of the concept.
“We like it or we don’t,” he said, making the motion to endorse the plan, rather than simply receive Schwab’s presentation.
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 told council he had consulted with nearby hotel and motel operators and received strong support. However, David Prystay, general manager of the Penticton Lakeside Resort, direct neighbour to the walking pier, didn’t find the plan that appealing.
Council, he said,m 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.”
Likewise, Andy Seifert, who, along with his wife Barbara, owns and operates the paddlewheeler Casabella Princess as a tourist charter boat, is far from convinced Schwab’s plan is possible.
Schwab said his operation won’t compete for tourist dollars with the Casabella Princess or Penticton’s landlocked tourist icon, the SS Sicamous.
“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.”