Good News for the Conference Centre Downtown

I think the following article pretty much speaks for itself. I’ve long been impressed by the conference centre, or rather, I’ve been impressed with it since I had a tour of it a few months before it opened. I hope that the neighbouring businesses are getting the traffic from the centre that was anticipated. We have so much potential in our downtown, and this is one of the things that is happening to bring it into its full fruition. I hope the work that is being done next to Mafeo Sutton park turns out to be nice, it was sad to see all those trees torn up to do it though. There are so many things we have right in the downtown area, but if you ask me we don’t have enough convenient parking and quite enough foot traffic to make it the centre of our community living. I’m hoping that the conference centre, extension of the waterfront park and new berth for cruise ships will have the intended effect.

Ryan Coffey

Conference centre reaches milestone with full booking

Yesterday was first time the $75-million facility hit capacity

There was no room at the conference centre on Wednesday.

For the first time since the Vancouver Island Conference Centre opened, it was completely booked.

Officials are calling the day a major milestone for the $75-million building, built almost entirely with Nanaimo taxpayers’ money to drive downtown revitalization and encourage economic diversification.

The Commercial Street facility, which can accommodate up to 1,300 delegates, opened in June and was supposed to be served by a brand new 170-room hotel. But Vancouver-based Millennium Developments ran into financing problems and in January the city took the Gordon Street land back from the developer and gave them until March 2 to come up with a workable construction time frame, or face losing the deal altogether.

The conference centre opened on June 7.

“It is a great feeling, it gives promise in times when things can be ambiguous,” said general manager Denise Tacon, referring to economic problems seen elsewhere.

“Our numbers for January and February are bang on and a little bit higher (than expected). We’re exceeding what we’re anticipating each month, which is great.”

With a major First Nations conference and a variety of other smaller conferences underway, developer Cable Bay Lands booked the last remaining room a few days ago.

While every room in the facility was being used, not all were full, meaning the centre could have accommodated considerably more delegates than were there Wednesday.

“We’ve sold out, it doesn’t mean our maximum numbers are here,” Tacon said. “When we don’t have another hotel to house another 200 delegates, we pursue smaller conferences. We target market what we can do.”

Mayor John Ruttan was one of 15 city of Nanaimo delegates attending a budget meeting at the conference centre on Wednesday.

“That’s wonderful,” he said to news the facility had been fully booked. “This is a banner date (and) given all the doom and gloom we’re always reading about in the media, it’s good news to the conference centre.”

Ruttan couldn’t predict whether Millennium would have a new proposal to build a hotel on the Gordon Street site in time for next week’s deadline.

“It’s kind of premature to speculate on what might or might not happen,” he said. “What we’ll have to do is wait and see if there’s not going to be any last-minute changes from Millennium. I don’t want to discount what may or may not happen. Some negotiations are going on and they will continue until the period ends Monday.”

If the developer misses its deadline, Ruttan said others are waiting in the wings.

“We’ve got indications there are some out there. We feel not until Millennium is no longer in the picture will we speak to others, but we have had expressions of interest.”

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