Over the past decade, no other project in the region has generated as much debate as the building and operation of the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Part of the problem was with the promises made by the proponents of the SOEC, namely instant success and an immediate impact on the economy of Penticton.
Hiring staff from south of the border who knew nothing about Canadian culture or entertainment, junior hockey or curling also didn’t help matters. In the first years, there were letters to the editor calling the structure a white elephant and others who thought the best way to handle the rising deficit was to close the doors.
There were flops in the early days including Feist, Michael Bolton and Rihanna.
Eventually, things began to turn around. The right people were put in the right place and started making the right decisions. A new spirit of co-operation between Global Spectrum management and the city’s staff and advisory committee, made a huge difference in attitude and performance.
Since the flops, there have been dozens of successes including Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Heart, Eric Church, Brad Paisley, Motley Crue, Cirque de Soleil, the Vancouver Canucks’ training camp, the Young Stars Classic and a national championship by the Penticton Vees.
Next week the SOEC celebrates its fifth anniversary, with the home opener for the Penticton Vees — exactly the same way the building opened five years ago.
Although it had a tough infancy, the positive economic impact the SOEC was intended to have on the community is now being felt. In only a few years, it has gone from the target of widespread criticism to a shining star in our community.