Despite having a banner year in 2015, Spectra is asking for an $150,000 increase in their budget for operating the South Okanagan Events Centre Complex.
Spectra Venue Management holds the contract to operate the SOEC, OHS and Memorial arenas as well as the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, with the city investing about a $1.18 million annual subsidy.
But for 2016, Spectra regional manager Dean Clarke told city council they are requesting $1.3 million.
“The real change is in the convention centre,” said Clarke. The other facilities are doing well he explained, but he is projecting higher losses at the convention centre.
“What we are seeing for 2016 is the larger conventions either have outgrown Penticton or they are not satisfied with the accommodations,” said Clarke. “We need better accommodations in the city, plain and simple. We end up losing out to these larger conventions.
“The reports we get back have nothing to do with the facility, it has nothing to do with the sales staff, it has everything to do with the fact that we don’t have the same number of high level hotel accommodations.”
David Prystay, general manager of the Lakeside Resort, said there is no shortage of good accommodation, but a shortage of large conventions. Conventions of 800 or more, he said, are few and far between in B.C. and end up in larger centres for a number of reasons.
“Hotel rooms is part of it of course, but it is everything else associated with a major city,” said Prystay, referring to cultural attractions, nightlife, shopping and other amenities.
“These are things that Penticton itself cannot offer them. Penticton is a small town, we are not suited for major conventions,” Prystay continued. “The ones that we will get here are fairly budget-oriented, which is fine for what we have.”
Prystay noted that the Lakeside Resort is expanding both its number of rooms and private convention facilities, enabling them to handle conventions of up to 1,600. While the city may not boast a Four Seasons or Fairmont hotel, he said, there is no shortage of attractive accommodation in Penticton besides the Lakeside’s offerings.
“The Ramada is beautiful, a lot of the motels along Lakeshore Drive have beautifully renovated rooms,” said Prystay. “We have lots of quality rooms in this town. I think the convention centre has seen better days. Perhaps the city should get out of that business if they are losing money at it, then let the free enterprise people run the conventions in this town and leave it at that.”
Clarke also noted that the drop in value for the Canadian dollar has affected their operations.
“Our biggest efficiencies will come not from the trade centre, but from a better Canadian dollar, when it comes to our profitability on our events as a whole,” said Clarke.
Overall, the SOEC complex is expected to come in below budget for 2015, which Clarke attributes to three factors: Cirque du Soleil, which was not budgeted, the Vees playoffs, and what he called “the Connor McDavid effect” during the Young Stars Classic.
“That was essentially why we had such a banner year,” said Clarke.