According to a consultant’s report, there is still life left in the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
Built in the 1960s, the PTCC is one of the city facilities suggested for possible repurposing in January, perhaps becoming a new location for the Penticton Art Gallery and/or other facilities. The possibility of the city getting out of the convention business and leaving it to private interests like the Lakeside Hotel was also raised.
“The numbers show it is an important generator for the city,” said Johnathon Hack of Sierra Planning and Management, which conducted a review of the facility.
The idea, he said, is not to let the Lakeside expansion cannibalize the market, but to grow the market so there is room for both.
As part of the study, Hack said they looked into repurposing the building as an ice rink, library, art gallery or curling rink.
“They are all deficit propositions,” said Hack, explaining that all the suggestions would require subsidies, as the convention centre already does.
That subsidy varies each year, but is usually in the range of $200,000, which Hack said that is doing well compared to other city-owned convention centres, which operate with subsidies in the $500,000 range.
“It stacks up pretty well against some of the other centres. There are no trade and convention centres in the country that make money,” said Hack, noting convention centres are generally not intended as primary economic generators, but as triggers to generate secondary economic impact in their communities.
“I think council should be quite willing to accept the current deficit at this facility,” said Hack. Like arenas, he continued, subsidizing a convention centre is an expected public investment.
The primary focus should be maintaining and enhancing the facility, said Hack, and finding ways the PTCC can differentiate itself, noting that it already has the largest floor space in the Okanagan.
A key factor, though problematic, would be the addition of a hotel, preferably on site to make the PTCC more attractive to bookings, something competitors can offer.
Rather than pulling away from the trade and convention business, the study recommends a series of improvements. Those, which include basics like carpeting, add up to about $6 to $7 million. A larger future would see the PTCC expanded, with an estimated cost of $25.4 million.
City council received the report with only one question coming from Coun. Andre Martin, who wanted to know whether in the course of preparing the report, Hack had noticed any fallout from the dispute over tourism marketing through the past five years.
“There is probably a marketing piece that needs to happen to demonstrate the overall benefits as a location. There is a need to co-ordinate tourism marketing,” said Hack, who stressed that was anecdotal, and not a factor examined in the study.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said that with the current focus on the city’s infrastructure, council wasn’t ready to discuss the future of the PTCC. He preferred to leave that until after more public engagement had been done, allowing the community to “pipe in on their supports or comments on the convention centre.”
“It is one of the things that makes Penticton unique,” said Jakubeit, adding that deciding the future of the facility needs to be taken into context when talking about developing a plan to deal with infrastructure now and into the future. “We hope to circle back and definitively answer that question or make a statement.”