The City of Penticton told Travel Penticton it would need more time and information from other sources before investing $250,000 into a new building for the organization tosituate its headquarters and visitor’s centre. Western News file photo

Travel Penticton’s headquarter plans halted in council

Councillors told the group they need more information before investing $250,000 to the plan

Penticton city councillors say they need more information before paying $250,000 to help build a new visitor’s centre and Travel Penticton headquarters on the South Okanagan Events Centre campus.

With the new casino taking up a large chunk of parking for the campus’s facilities and the arena task force set to make some recommendations on how to deal with the aging Memorial Arena, councillors were hesitant to jump on anything that might take up space on the SOEC campus.

Currently, Travel Penticton is pitching the modular structure for the Queen’s Drive, the unused driveway that would connect the campus parking lot directly to Highway 97.

“It’s important that folks find us. As much as we’d like to be completely digital, that’s not the reality, it’s not where we are in this timeframe, it’s not where we are provincially, and it’s not where we are nationally, either,” Haynes said.

A new building is estimated to cost a total of $450,000, of which $200,000 would be footed by Travel Penticton, with $250,000 coming from the city. Haynes assured council that Travel Penticton’s contribution would not come from the hotel room tax or yearly grant from the city, but from the organization’s own fundraising.

The $250,000 from the city would give them ownership of the building, which the city would, in turn, lease long-term back to Travel Penticton.

One of the main issues of concern to all parties is parking. The SOEC campus is already a busy site, with the SOEC arena, where the Penticton Vees and large musical acts play, the Okanagan Hockey School and Academy rink, the new casino, Memorial Arena, the curling club, community centre and the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre all occupying space in the site.

“What we know for sure is that our busy season and the summer season is not necessarily the busy season of others in the parking area,” Haynes said. “So, it works well to offset and use the parking area that’s there for us.”

Haynes said Travel Penticton has until the end of summer — “probably, we can fudge until October” — to get out of their current spot, which they had shared with the B.C. Wine Info Centre, before it moved into a permanent space in the new casino.

“So, there is urgency in the conversation for us.”

Council had some concerns about putting another building on the campus, suggesting the organization look at some options.

“Being right on Highway 97-Eckhardt, you can’t beat it. Especially that particular spot that is not being used and, as far as I know, has no purpose in the near future,” Travel Penticton executive director Thom Tischik said.

“We looked at maybe trying to integrate into the SOEC building, we looked at a number of options, and this one still seems to ring out as the best option that we have, and would meet our needs and would be affordable.”

Councillor Max Picton, who is the arena task force’s council liaison, said the group is looking at the possibility of a replacement for Memorial Arena, which he said made for bad timing to be making new decisions on how to use space on the SOEC campus.

“I would be hesitant to see this go through until we get a recommendation from the task force on that specific subject,” Picton said, at the same time acknowledging Travel Penticton’s tight timeframe.

“What I don’t want to see is your organization going and investing a bunch of money into something that we, then, find out that is not going to work on the big, multi-million dollar scale for that property.”

On that note, Tischik pointed out that tourism, too, is a multi-million-dollar industry.

“We’re trying to enhance that and make sure that our visitors are getting the best information and coming here and recognizing Penticton’s the place to come to,” he said.

Haynes told Picton Travel Penticton didn’t have a temporary solution that could hold the organization through to any decision from the arena task force. But if approved, Horizon North would begin building in August, take about a month to complete building and would be able to install the building in the fall.

Council and Haynes agreed that both parties would need more information on the issue, noting that the organization would like to sit in on the task force’s meetings.