Convention centre on the agenda

Conventions may be part of the answer to boosting Vernon’s economy.

One politician believes conventions may be part of the answer to boosting Vernon’s economy.

Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe wants city staff to consider the feasibility of establishing a convention centre in the community.

“I’ve had several people talk to me about it,” she said of the concept.

There are new hotels being developed and O’Keefe says all accommodators will require something that brings tourists  into Vernon.

“We don’t need a Penticton convention centre which is huge. But there is a need for a medium to small centre which would fill rooms in the off-season,” she said.

O’Keefe envisions a facility that could handle about 1,000 people attending a conference.

“There is some opportunity to partner with business and make it a true private/public partnership,” she said of the funds needed to build and operate a site.

Because the accommodations sector, O’Keefe says a convention centre would provide support for caterers, restaurants, retailers and gas stations.

The need for a convention centre surfaced when the City of Vernon was working on its tourism strategy.

“We will look at our project list next year and a convention centre could be on there,” said Kevin Poole, economic development manager, in terms of establishing a process on how to proceed with the concept.

Some private sector interests have also indicated interest in possibly establishing a centre.

“We need to meet with the accommodators about their plans for their existing facilities,” said Poole.

While many conventions currently go to Kelowna or Penticton, Poole is convinced there is room for Vernon to get involved.

“There are opportunities given our proximity to the Kelowna International Airport,” he said, adding that Vernon has a number of recreational and cultural activities to offer.

“You can’t beat the Okanagan for preferred destination.”