Events Centre (1 Port Drive)

The construction of an event centre at 1 Port Drive in downtown Nanaimo was proposed by Council in late 2016. A referendum was held on March 11, 2017 and Nanaimo voters decided against borrowing $80 million for its development and construction.
  • Progress
  • Documents


    Presentation Materials and Videos


  • Details


    Questions and Answers

    The following questions and answers have been provided to assist the public learning more about this proposed project. As further work on this initiative is carried out, additional information will be added. 

    Events Centre Questions and Answers
    Public Engagement Questions and Answers
    Financing Questions and Answers
    Referendum Questions and Answers

    How did this study for an events centre come about?

    Building an events centre in Nanaimo has been a topic of community interest and discussion for many years.  More recently, two guiding documents – Council’s Updated Strategic Plan and the 2014 Culture Plan – have each emphasised the importance of making the events centre a priority in terms of determining whether or not such a facility is a positive fit for Nanaimo.

    What is the timeline for this proposed project?

    The City has prepared a proposed timeline outlining six possible phases the project would take through to September 2019.

    Who undertook this study?

    Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects was hired by the City through an RFP process to complete a study containing the following objectives:

    • Respond to Council’s designation of an Event Centre as one of their Updated Strategic Plan's top 5 priorities. 
    • Report on the implications of Nanaimo having the opportunity to secure a WHL Team if an Event Centre is developed. 
    • Provide an initial overview on an Event Centre’s financial & physical planning realities & benefits to allow Council to make an informed decision on whether to pursue this initiative further.

    What locations are being considered?

    • The Howard Johnson Site located at Comox Road and Terminal Avenue
    • The 1 Port Drive Site located in the south downtown waterfront lands 

    What are the positives and challenges of the Howard Johnson location?

    • Positives
      • Large enough area.
      • Prominent gateway entry locations.
      • Adjacent to downtown.
      • Significant public parking within a 10 – 12 minute walk.
      • Space for a new complimentary development.
      • Opportunity to continue the heritage of being important traditional First Nations meeting places.
    • Challenges
      • Unknown geotechnical conditions.
      • Limited potential for a second ice rink.

    What are the positives and challenges of the 1 Port Drive Site location?

    • Positives:
      • Assumed City-Ownership.
      • Environmental approvals have been received
      • Anchors the south end of the existing Waterfront Trail.  
      • Closer proximity to the Convention Centre.
      • Room for additional public attractions.
      • Supports almost all of the December 2013 South Downtown Waterfront Initiative’s Guiding Principles.
    • Challenges:
      • Sanitary sewer.
      • Large amount of on-site fill.
      • If the trains start to operate evenings or weekends, the Event Centre will require special acoustic mitigation that will result in additional costs.
      • Deal to transfer these lands to the City has yet to be finalized.
      • Master planning including road and Waterfront Trail designations may take additional time to complete. 
      • Snuneymuxw First Nation have site-specific claims to this site.

    What is the market size for an event centre in Nanaimo?

    • Primary Nanaimo Regional District:          165,000
    • Secondary (1 hour travel time):              140,000
    • Third (1.5 hour travel time):                   86,000 (Note: Victoria not included) 

    What are Nanaimo’s Market Characteristics supporting an event centre?

    • People expect to travel long distances.
    • Nanaimo’s central location and ferries.
    • Strong student population.
    • Unique destination for tourists.
    • Port Theatre Sales:
      • 10% to households off Vancouver Island.
      • 20% to households on Vancouver Island but are outside NRD.
    • Event Centre could attract 35% or more from outside the NRD.
    • Nanaimo is the largest urban area in Western Canada without a modern Event Centre.  

    What is the Nanaimo business market for an event centre?

    • 600 businesses with 20 or more employees with a vast majority of these businesses located within the City of Nanaimo limits. 
    • Anticipated continued growth.
    • Will result in strong event ticket sales and sponsorships

    What are the primary event requirements for a Western Hockey League?

    • Establishing the overall spectator viewing capacity:
      • Kelowna average attendance: 5,424
      • Red Deer average attendance: 5,635
      • WHL average attendance: 4,535
      • Attendance varies as team wins/loses & on who they’re playing.
      • Right capacity for a Nanaimo WHL Team: 5,700
    • 5700 will assist in attracting more premium games & championships.  
      • The event centre will also need to include suites, loges, clubs, restaurants, etc.

    What are the primary event requirements for touring shows?

    • Most mid-sized regions have maximum 6,500 to 7,500 and host approximately 25 shows.
    • Facilities with 8,000 to 9,000 are hosting approximately 35 to 40 touring shows.
    • Need good quality acoustics, washrooms, fast move-ins, rigging loads, stage power, etc.

    What are the primary event requirements for other events?

    • Facility must be complimentary to & coordinated with the Port Theatre and other existing Nanaimo entertainment facilities.
    • Cultural and community events and activities.
    • Public galleries and sitting areas at non-event times. 
    • Ice sport recreational and training uses.
    • Indoor soft-surface circular walking routes.
    • Rooms for not-for-profit community and cultural groups at non-event times.
    • Covered outdoor public activation & festival plaza. 

    What is the recommended facility program?

    • Large enough for a WHL Team.
    • Features to attract a broad variety of Touring Shows.
    • Provides a first class experience with a tight vertical bowl that provides on-top-of-the-action visibility for all guests.
    • A wide cross-section of different seating and hospitality options.
    • Provide for an efficient future operation of the Centre
    • Areas for growth that allow self-funding complimentary uses.

    What would the base facility include?

    • Capacity:
      • Hockey: 5,700 spectators
      • Concerts: 7,100 spectator 
    • 22 Suites & 22 Loges. 
    • 800 Seat Club. 
    • Restaurant open to Event Bowl.
    • Neighbourhood Seating Sections for youth, families, businesses of different sizes, etc. 
    • Accessible 365 day/year Concourses, Restrooms and Food Kiosks.  

    What options have been presented for Council to consider?

    • Option A
      • Viewing capacity for concerts would increase to 8,300 from 7,100 which will attract more events & requires 2,200m2 of additional guest services. Hockey capacity stays the same as the base facility’s 7100.  
      • This Option also includes additional multi-purpose rooms for community recreation, meetings & other activities to augment the facility’s use as a 365-day recreational/community centre.
    • Option B
      • An exterior and interior architectural upgrade including addition of a large covered exterior entry activation pavilion to make this a one-of-a-kind made-in-Nanaimo public assembly community centre.  
      • Also creates an environmental showcase using traditional sustainable building products to create a world unique architectural interpretation of a First Nations’ Long House
    • Option C
      • If the City wants to minimize the cost of the facility while still maximizing the opportunity to attract a WHL Team, we recommend a 5,000 to 5,200 seat facility of 120,000sf that has minimal facilities to accommodate touring shows. 

    What are the attributes of a good site?

    • Accommodates the recommended Event Centre.
    • Located in the centre of the urban population to maximize accessibility, attendance and economic benefits.
    • Proximity to other hospitality, retail and accommodation offerings.
    • Prominent exposure to maximize impact and sponsorship revenues.
    • Access to public transit.
    • Proximity to 1,500 customer parking spaces.
    • Minimizes impact of truck traffic.
    • Reasonable cost.
    • Can be approved and expedited reasonably quickly.
    • Adjacent to other developable lands.

    What are some of the funding options for an events centre?

    • Debenture Financing.
    • Build Canada Gas Tax Fund.
    • TIF (tax increment financing).
    • Community Revitalization Levy.
    • City’s Renew Reserve Fund.
    • Casino Revenue.
    • Borrowing from the Province.
    • Bed Tax on Hotel Rooms.
    • Developers by Allowing Increased Density.
    • Ticket Tax on Events.
    • Users Fee Tax on Event Centre Rentals.
    • Private Sector.
    • Philanthropy.
    • Provincial Infrastructure Grants.
    • First Nations.
    • Federal Infrastructure Grants for Other Municipal Projects Redirected to the Event Centre.
    • Economic Impact.
    • Increase in Property Taxes.
    • Construction Financing Combined with Long Term Financing.

    What are the next steps on this initative?

    To date, BBB have completed an overview on the key aspects of developing and operating an event centre including:

    • An Event Centre’s Primary Objectives.  
    • The Nanaimo Market.  
    • Recommended Building Program. 
    • Potential Concept Design. 
    • Initial Visualizations.
    • ‎Impact on Existing Ice Facilities.
    • Site Selection Criteria. 
    • The 2 Best Preferred Sites. 
    • Development Cost.  
    • Projected Operating Results. 
    • Economic ‎& Community Benefits. 
    • Potential Funding Options.  
    • The WHL.  

    Nanaimo City Council has decided to continue to investigate and pursue this initiative. The following additional research will be undertaken between November 14 through to December 18:

    • Community, City & stakeholder engagement, review and input.
    • Additional market research and economic impacts.
    • More detailed concept design and capital cost estimate. 
    • ‎A more detailed technical review of the preferred site(s).
    • Formalized meetings with the WHL .
    • ‎A detailed operating proforma for the facility's first 10 years of operation.
    • Initiatives to secure project funding. 
    • Compilation of the above into a concise feasibility report.

    Has Council decided how this project will be financed?

    No.  Council received preliminary costs estimates and additional cost and other analysis is underway.  The decision on how this project will be financed would be premature at this time.  Council will be presented with a project financing framework in the future that will include several options to choose from.

    Has a business case been developed for this project?

    Development of a business case is an iterative process up to a point where enough information has been gathered and analyzed.  At such a point, Council will deliberate on the business case and determine next steps.  The City is currently undertaking work that will lead to a complete business case.

    What process does the City follow to incur debt or borrow funding?

    The City is subject to B.C. Regulation 254/2004 Community Charter Municipal Liabilities Regulation as amended.  This regulation sets the amount of annual debt service at 25% of the City’s previous year’s revenue subject to a prescribed calculation.  At the end of 2015, the City’s annual debt service limit was $37.5 million.  The City’s actual 2015 debt services costs were $5.3 million or 14% of available annual debt service limit.  The regulation also prescribes the process that municipalities need to follow in taking on debt. 

    Municipal borrowing is subject to elector approval subject to 4 exemptions;

    1. commitments that are not calculation liabilities, that is non-capital costs or non-loan guarantees by a municipality,
    2. the municipality’s resultant aggregate annual debt service does not exceed 5% of qualifying revenue, or ‘approval free zone’,
    3. expenditure arising from a drinking water protection order
    4. costs arising from preparing or implementing  liquid waste management plan subject to the Environmental Management Act. 

    The relevant exemption consideration in this case would be item (2).  The City aggregate annual debt service approval free zone limit as calculated for the 2015 financial results is $7.5 million.

  • Background

    An Events Centre was proposed for one of two downtown locations - the Howard Johnson Hotel site on the corner of Terminal Avenue and Comox Road and the City-owned waterfront lands on 1 Port Drive. The vision for this facility involved the construction of a multi-use facility where activities like ice sports, touring shows, concerts, cultural and community occasions, recreation programs and large meetings could take place. 

    In the spring of 2016, Council updated its 2012-2015 Strategic Plan. In the update, Council identified an events centre as being a priority project. Later that fall, BBB Architects were hired to study the feasibility of building and operating an event centre. Two studies were undertaken September through December with the Phase One study presented in October and the Phase Two study presented in December. To gauge public’s sentiment towards the idea building an events centre in Nanaimo, the City hosted three open houses events in November through December and also collected feedback through phone, online and mail-in surveys.

    The results of the feasibility study, feedback from the public engagement sessions and surveys were brought to Council on December 19, 2016. From there, Council chose to move to Phase 3 of the project and adopt the following four operating principles to guide design, financing, construction and operations of the proposed events centre:

    1. ensure the interests of the citizens of Nanaimo are protected;
    2. the events centre is a community meeting place catering to all and promoting community wellness;
    3. funding for development and operations of the events centre come from a mix of public, private and other sources; and
    4. the events centre is complementary to existing facilities and is a catalyst for downtown revitalization.

    The 1 Port Drive location was chosen as the site for the events centre. Developing and constructing the facility at 1 Port Drive would cost $80 million. A referendum was called on March 11, 2017 where voters chose not to support borrowing the funds. As a result, the project was cancelled. 

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