Reflecting on first year of the Columbia Valley Centre

Final elements coming into view for new Invermere community hall

The Columbia Valley Centre (CVC) has been in operation for close to a year now, with a ribbon cutting last September marking the grand unveiling of the ambitious $10 million project. And while it has faced some criticism from user groups, the District mayor is optimistic things are looking up for the facility now that almost all the key features are in place.

Mayor Gerry Taft says the first year has been, for the most part, a success. There have been lots of bookings including weddings and other private affairs, film festivals, a Judo tournament, fairs, and a variety of other events. The building itself received high praise from within the architectural community, earning platinum at the 2018 Architectural Awards this past April.

Invermere Council made a conscious decision to finish the facility first, then to install elements throughout this past year, including getting the kitchen fully operational, setting up the audio/visual gear, and installing the retractable dividing wall and curtain system.

The final major component still to be installed is 220 retractable theatre seats, scheduled to arrive some time this fall. While the District has “juggled” some funding to cover costs, said Mr. Taft, there are still some unsold seats, with plaque-naming rights, available for $1,000 per seat.

Funding for the hall came from a variety of sources, including the Regional District of East Kootenay, Columbia Basin Trust, federal gas tax funding, District of Invermere, and volunteers who helped to raise almost $1 million in private and community donations.

One of the goals this coming year, reports the mayor, is to look at facility costs to ensure hall rental fees reflect accurately the costs of using the space.

Looking forward, the District would like to see more bookings for weekdays and specifically during daytime hours, to help maximize the facility usage, such as senior-focused events.

“We want to see it being used as much as possible,” said Mr. Taft.

Another feature still to come is the donor recognition signage, to be installed in the lobby within the next two weeks.

Though they had many positive comments this year, the acoustics were of concern for some of the user groups, Mr. Taft said.

“It was a challenge with the acoustics – saying it was hard to hear, or the sound wasn’t great,” he said.

While Council’s vision was to have the whole grand hall “acoustically treated,” the theatre consultant focused the optimal setup for one side of the dividing wall with the retractable seating.

After a year of trial and error and making some tweaks, District council and staff are optimistic they can establish guidelines for best results for future events at the CVC. The District is currently seeking individuals interested in being on an operations committee to help work out the kinks.

“We’re looking for input and for volunteers – for people to come with solutions,” said Mr. Taft. “We want the facility to be as successful as possible, and as useful as possible, so let’s all work together to achieve that.”

The District plans to work on communicating to user groups the best set up and equipment to use to improve acoustics, and if necessary will look at adding some additional acoustic treatments.

To get involved with the operations committee, contact the District of Invermere at 250-342-9281.

The Invermere Community Hall

The old Invermere Community Hall was originally scheduled for demolition last January. The District of Invermere hired Amiante Environmental Consulting for the demolition through an open bidding competition. Amiante Environmental Consulting had only been working for three days when WorkSafeBC issued a stop-work order at the old community hall on Friday, February 16th. Since then, the hall has sat vacant, awaiting resolution. The District has now terminated the contract with Amiante and is currently seeking a new contractor for the work. No formal plans are in place for the property, located on 8th Ave. between 10th and 12th St.

Surplus of centres

With two new community centres opened in the past year, and another recreation centre set to open, the Pioneer asked Ryan Watmough, Columbia Valley community economic development officer, a few questions about how these facilities may enhance the economic opportunities in the Valley.

He says the new facilities enable social inclusion for residents, offering space for events they have come to expect they can get in their community over the years, as well as providing benefits to area businesses.

“When visitors rent these facilities, those events help to bolster all of the ancillary tourism services, like hotels, restaurants, caterers, and activity providers. The more time residents and visitors spend in the Columbia Valley, the more money they are likely to be spending here, too, and that’s great for our local economy,” says Mr. Watmough.

Each space has unique attributes, something he sees as an opportunity to enable an unlimited number of events and users, adding it leads to the possibility of coordinating event venues to reach a broader clientele.

“The fact that the Columbia Valley has multiple spaces means that we can support a wide variety of events – from the small neighbourhood get-together down the street, up to the large convention or tournament up or down Highway 95,” he comments. “The Columbia Valley is home to several unique and different facilities that support a wide range of gatherings and activities. I would like to see a more coordinated effort in planning and marketing these events in an effort to reduce scheduling conflicts so that all of them can be successful.”

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