COG: Centre of concern
Oct 25, 2013 / 6:35 am
Several issues from a lack of accommodations for event goers to concerns over public safety could force organizers of Center of Gravity to move the event from the traditional August long weekend date.
It's one of several suggestions made by event organizers Wet Ape Productions, the city and the Outdoor Events Committee to address safety and on-site concerns.
Other suggestions include:
- Changing the music genre and scheduling more live entertainment (opposed to DJ) to promote a more diverse audience
- Align event capacity numbers with available security and emergency resources
- Implement strategies to minimize damages to the sports field
- Evaluate and augment the current security plan in collaboration with Wet Ape, RCMP and security to address security checks, contraband controls, site layout and emergency services.
- Focus marketing on the daytime sports events
In his report, Sport and Event Development Manager, Don Backmeyer acknowledged Center of Gravity has become a prominent event since debuting as Volleyfest in 2007.
He says it's a homegrown event with a local organizer and has evolved significantly over the past six years.
"The event showcases sport, culture and active lifestyle in a unique format. It has the potential to enhance Kelowna's reputation as a destination for hosting high-level competition and entertainment events," says Backmeyer.
However, Backmeyer says both during and after the event, residents and members of the Outdoor Events Committee raised concerns with respect to the event itself and events that took place over the festival weekend.
In order to get a clear picture of the event staff received feedback from several key stakeholders including:
- BC Ambulance
- BC Liquor Control and Licencing
- Kelowna General Hospital
- Tourism Kelowna
- Kelowna Hotel/Motel Association
- Downtown Kelowna Association
- Several City departments
"It was clear from the review that the hotel and tourism related industries benefit directly from the festival weekend," says Backmeyer.
"Every hotel room in the city was booked and other than the downtown property owners, hotel operators had relatively few concerns. Tourism Kelowna estimates Center of Gravity has an economic impact of approximately $5M.
From the feedback gathered, Backmeyer says it was also evident there were also many concerns.
With respect to community impact Backmeyer says a lack of rooms for attendees resulted in some event goers using neighbourhood streets and parks as campgrounds resulting in property damage and residents in affected areas expressing safety concerns.
Noise levels, lack of parking, increased litter and a lack of washroom facilities were also a concern for residents living around City Park.
Backmeyer says RCMP, BC Ambulance and Kelowna General Hospital all reported a spike in activity during the event.
"Emergency services personnel, and some residents, expressed concerns for public safety with the number of intoxicated people crowding the downtown area and nearby residential areas until five in the morning," Backmeyer stated in his report.
"With extended hours approved for some bars and a lack of transportation options at that time of day, some people were in effect stranded in the downtown core. Within the event site, lighting, site layout and logistics were identified as areas needing attention to improve overall safety."
Backmeyer added that several organizations polled felt the August long weekend was not the best time for the festival because of the number of non-festival tourists in the city.
"Concerns were expressed about the impression visitors were getting of Kelowna."
Backmeyer says events organizers have been responsive to concerns raised by the Outdoor Events Committee and local residents and have committed to implementing strategies that will lead to a safer and more sustainable event.
"While there are substantial challenges, Wet Ape has a committed team of individuals willing to invest in this unique sport and music festival to ensure it contributes positively to the reputation, spirit and culture that exists in Kelowna," concluded Backmeyer.
He says planning for the 2014 festival are continuing with renewed focus on developing a 'well rounded festival' with a long future in Kelowna.
Read more Kelowna News
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