Tourism Centre on track

Rob Gibson

If you've been by the boardwalk in Kelowna lately, specifically near the sails, it's hard to miss construction on the new tourism Kelowna Centre.  

As we get closer to summer, it's easy to see how progress on the new visitor centre is coming along.

The visitor centre used to be located on Harvey Street but according to Lisanne Ballantyne, President, and CEO of Tourism Kelowna, the times they are changing.

"Because of declining visitors coming through (the old centre), like many places in North America, we made the decision to go to where the customer was."

That new location is right on the waterfront and according to Ballantyne, more than 400 thousand people visit the downtown boardwalk every year.

"People are making their travel arrangements online and in advance, so people are arriving fully booked, they've got their hotels in place and now they are looking for things to do while they are here."

Hence the new visitor centre, right on the waterfront, actually in the same location as the old originally ferry landing and an even older sawmill. According to project manager, Gustav Van Niekerk building on the waterfront can be tricky.

"We did have some geotechnical issues which we had to mitigate, as we excavated for the foundation we actually found some of the original pilings for the ferry terminal."

Van Niekerk says they plan to donate some of the findings to the Kelowna Museum.

Part of the construction challenge was the actual design. There are no 90-degree angles, most of the building is rounded and off square.

"It's got quite an organic design which was from the beginning was a desire of Tourism Kelowna so we could take advantage of the timeless location. There were engineering issues that needed to be overcome but our design team and skilled labourers did an excellent job of bringing it all together."

During construction, an environmental consultant is performing environmental monitoring and there have been no issues to report.

The new building is on track to open by mid to late summer.

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