Following up on a good first quarter to 2012, the South Okanagan Events Centre complex has again exceeded budget targets for the April to June period.
Year to date, the SOEC complex, which includes Memorial Arena and the Trade and Convention Centre, is $236,000 ahead of its budget, exceeding its budget targets by $70,000 in the second quarter.
The success year-to-date is driven in part by the Penticton Vees, who enjoyed robust ticket sales during their record-setting, national championship season. Increased bookings at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and Memorial Arena have also contributed to the positive results.
“Penticton is emerging as an attractive venue for the entertainment industry,” said Mark Ziebarth, chair of the SOEC select committee. “The pedal is to the metal in terms of attracting entertainment acts and events to the South Okanagan Events Centre campus that not only fill seats, but build upon the vibrancy in the community.”
Ziebarth attributes the success to hard work by Global Spectrum, who hold the contract for managing the facilities, along with the oversight of the advisory committee.
The committee was formed, Ziebarth said, to provide oversight after “council realized they had a huge investment on their hands that was not going to pay off as well or as quickly as rosy early projections had suggested back in the planning day.”
“We vote on every one of those decisions above a certain dollar amount,” said Ziebarth. “At the end of the day, we are literally making sure that Global is not spending $2 million on another Rihanna concert, unless we have agreed that is a good investment.”
Ziebarth cites the recent Mixed Martial Arts event hosted at the PTCC as an example of the system working well. The event, which he describes as profitable for everyone involved, was arranged on very short notice, thanks to groundwork that had already been laid.
“After four years, some of the things the city has established, the practices, the disciplines, are paying off,” said Ziebarth, adding that the groundwork would continue to pay off in background ways, as it has for the convention centre.
“It’s been four years that we have been trying to build this business up, and now we are looking out and saying, oh my gosh, 2013 is shaping up to be a great year. Not because of anything other than hard work over the last three years to rebuild the business.”
In 2013, the convention centre will host hundreds of visitors attending the Western Canada Turfgrass Association Conference, the Municipal Information Systems Association of B.C. spring annual general meeting, the Canadian Quilters Association Quilt B.C. 2013 gathering and the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. meeting.
“These events are taking place during Penticton’s shoulder season, and each of these meetings will provide a tremendous boost to the local tourism economy by filling hotels and restaurants during otherwise quiet periods,” said Ziebarth. “This is proof that the PTCC is fulfilling its mission of creating positive economic impact throughout the community.”
That business, according to Ziebarth, is coming more to Penticton than it has in the last four years because of a lot of hard work.
“We got back in there and started wrestling in the mud to win some of these,” he said, pointing out that these conventions are going to be new to the city. “And that is the sign of success, when you can show new business on your books.”
In contrast, Ziebarth points out that with entertainment bookings for the facilities, every event is a new business.
“Blake Shelton, we do everything right, then he cancels. Or Avicii, we take a chance there, trying to appeal to a younger demographic, and it just doesn’t work and it costs us $20,000,” said Ziebarth. “Those hurt, but we made money on every event in the first five, six months of the year so that we were able to take these little risks.”
According to Ziebarth, anyone who expects to make money on every concert is in the wrong business.
“The entertainment business is extremely fickle. If we can make money on six or seven out of ten events, we are probably doing really well,” he said. “We are working closely with the Global people, who I have a lot of respect for, to wring more dollars out of the opportunities.”
Last year’s Cirque du SoIeil shows were a big hit and a money maker, Ziebarth said, yet the recent Sesame Street shows only broke even.
“We thought we would have another hit, but it just had nowhere near the family appeal, even at a lower price point, nowhere near the appeal that Cirque did,” he said.