West Kelowna  

Royal LePage Place has hosted one international event. Councillor Rosalind Neis is hoping another can be held this fall. (File Photo: Wayne Moore - Castanet)
Royal LePage Place has hosted one international event. Councillor Rosalind Neis is hoping another can be held this fall. (File Photo: Wayne Moore - Castanet)

World Hockey Challenge alive in DWK

by - Story: 51869

A group of West Kelowna community leaders are going to try to bring an international hockey event to the community this fall.

About 20 people packed into a meeting room at the Cove Resort Wednesday night to consider putting in a bid to host the 2010 World Junior A Challenge.

The week long tournament was hosted by Trail in 2008 and Summerside PEI last year. Six teams compete in the event including Canada East and West, the United States and three from Europe.

Russia, Sweden and Belarus took part last year.

West Kelowna Councillor Rosalind Neis spearheaded Wednesday's meeting.

"I think there is huge community support for this event," says Neis.

"Everyone sees the need to unite our community and an event like this can do that. It will give West Kelowna international recognition and the publicity we would gain would be immeasurable."

Neis says there were concerns raised over the time line and the upgrades which would need to be made to Royal LePage Place to host an event like this.

"We felt we should pursue a bid and if we are not successful, it will give us experience in bidding for other large events in the future."

A committee, to be chaired by Peter Wannop, has been established.

The committee is in the process of obtaining copies of the Trail and Summerside bid proposals.

Neis hopes to have a bid into Hockey Canada by the end of the month.

She says two other communities, Penticton and Okotoks, Alberta have also shown an interest in hosting the event, although neither has put in a formal bid.

The possibility of hosting the World Junior A Challenge came before council in October of last year.

At that time, it was the opinion of Parks staff that the municipality was not ready to host such an event.

The report, prepared by Recreation and Culture Supervisor Annette Beaudreau cited three concerns, including:
  • Accommodations - "West Kelowna would need all of our hotels on board, but even at that, the necessary banquet facilities and food service providers could not be met in our community."
  • Financial Guarantor - A financial guarantor would be required should the event lose money. "It is unclear who that would be but much of this risk would be dependent on the work of the organizing committee. There are huge expenses with only a $25,000 guaranteed grant from Hockey Canada."
  • Royal LePage Place - While the new West Kelowna arena is not quite three years old, there are deficiencies concerning television and media facilities and lighting as well as concession shortfalls.

    Beaudreau says it was the feeling of staff that large expenditures would be required to make Royal LePage Place suitable for such an event.

    Westside Warriors owner and general manager Mark Cheyne outlined some of his concerns about the facility at Wednesday's meeting.

    Cheyne says he believes any issues surrounding television coverage of the event and dressing rooms can be worked out.

    He says the main issues in the building concern concessions and parking.

    Cheyne told those at the meeting that current concession facilities are too small and secondary arrangements, either permanent of temporary, would have to be made.

    He also has concerns about the lack of parking and particularly, the lack of sufficient lighting in the parking lot.

    West Kelowna Council voted against the proposal back in October with Neis casting the lone dissenting vote.

    Neis says she is not trying to circumvent council's wishes, saying she has informed city officials and council colleagues of her plans.

    She says all members of council were invited to attend Wednesday's meeting, although none took up the offer.

    "The municipality will have to be approached officially," added Neis.

    "After our next meeting, the committee will ask to speak before council. The parks department and council will both be kept in the loop."

    Council would obviously have to approve any expenditures West Kelowna may have to make in upgrading Royal LePage Place for the event.

    Neis says council does have discretionary funds set aside in the budget which could possibly be used if council chose to go that route.

    Meantime, West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater says while he is open to look at any proposal, he is very leery about anything that would put the taxpayers at risk.

    Findlater says, at this time, he can't see council supporting something that could potentially cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars to improve Royal LePage Place as well as putting tax money at risk should the event finish in the red.

    "We have developed a strategic plan and for the most part, council has not deviated from that plan," says Findlater.

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