Editorial: reaping the rewards

Editorial: reaping the rewards

The West Fraser Centre’s ability to draw in business for Quesnel is just being realized

Quesnel is making gains thanks to the West Fraser Centre.

It wasn’t an easy or quick road to completion, and the West Fraser Centre was by no means a cheap endeavour – the building cost around $20.6 million to build, and a report at a recent North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee meeting shows the invoices are still being paid.

But the benefits to our community are rolling in.

At its grand opening, Quesnel was able to attract a well-known Canadian band, 54-40, to play, as well as the Canucks Alumni, who played the inaugural game on the ice.

The provincial midget hockey championships are coming (see pages A9-12 and A14), and local organization Parallel Sports Group was able to entice a Junior B hockey team from Kamloops to play here, which drew crowds of between 600 and 1,000 spectators over the winter.

And perhaps most notably, the 2019 Men’s Provincial Curling play-downs will take place in Quesnel next year.

As nostalgic as we might be about our old barn, these events would never have happened in that facility.

And while these events provide great opportunities for Quesnel residents to see high-calibre sport and exciting concerts, one of the real benefits to our city is the revenue they bring in.

Each and every player, coach, band member and roadie needs somewhere to stay and eat when they travel to Quesnel for an event, not to mention the parents and friends who travel with these groups.

A hockey team, for example, will have between 18 and 20 players, plus coaching and training staff. For the upcoming tournament, with six out-of-town teams, that’s upwards of 120 people arriving in Quesnel on Saturday and Sunday.

That’s huge for business.

The City and its partners are well aware of this effect. They’ve hired a contractor to investigate opportunities to bring in more of these types of events. If we can attract more big names, people from Prince George could soon be driving to Quesnel for events, rather than the other way around.

And West Fraser Centre will continue to be upgraded as long as funding rolls in, as City and CRD staff continue to assess what’s working at the space and what needs attention.

At the March 13 Joint Planning Committee meeting, director of community services Jeff Norburn delivered a report with proposed upgrades should funding come through, including improvements to the plaza area – like seating, planters and exterior wall murals; replacing the problematic spectator railings inside WF Centre with glass, to improve sight lines; and purchasing a stage and flooring.

Whether you’re a sports fan or not – and many residents have not yet even stepped foot in the centre – the facility is affecting you. And it’s a good thing.

Melanie Law

Quesnel Cariboo Observer