Since it opened in 1999, Prospera Place has created a legacy of hosting major entertainment and sports events which has raised the City of Kelowna’s profile as a mid-size city.
The success of being home to the WHL Kelowna Rockets franchise and hosting the Memorial Cup in 2004, bringing big-name concerts to town by the likes of Bryan Adams, Elton John Cher, Shania Twain, KISS and Aerosmith; and staging other events such as world junior championship hockey, Cirque du Soleil, curling championships and other home shows have made the arena an iconic fixture of the downtown core.
Before COVID-19’s impact, Prospera had played host to some 5.5 million people attending arena events.
Opened as Skyreach Place initially before Prospera Credit Union took over the naming rights in 2004, the building cost $21 million to build, a public-private partnership between the city and the GSL Group.
Currently, the ownership agreement allows GSL to retain ownership of the facility for another eight years, at which time the city faces a decision: extend the arrangement with GSL, purchase the arena back from GSL and manage it as a city facility or enter a new management partnership with another firm.
It is a decision that seemed well off in the future back in 1999, but that time frame is shrinking.
“It is a little bit preliminary what will happen as there are still eight years left on the current ownership agreement,” said City of Kelowna city manager Doug Gilchrist.
Entering into its 23rd year of existence, Gilchrist acknowledges investment in building upgrades will be needed before the current contract runs out.
He said the city always tries to take a proactive stance when dealing with the lifespan of public facilities, always looking ahead over a five to 10-year horizon of what is needed to keep them current and safe.
While the impact of COVID-19 and the ongoing economic evolution of the entertainment industry have curtailed events being hosted at Prospera Place in recent years, Gilchrest says the city is hoping to see more activity at the arena in the immediate future, citing the economic spin-offs that create for the city’s economy.
A UBC Okanagan economic study done in 2010 revealed the Kelowna Rockets along inject about $30 million annually into the Central Okanagan economy.
Along with Rockets hockey, Gilchrist said concerts and other events also generate a buzz in the downtown core, bringing in people from within and outside the city which benefits the downtown business core.
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