New conference centre in downtown

Complaints about what this city's missing in terms of event-hosting capabilities, haven't fallen on deaf ears.

Complaints about what this city’s missing in terms of event-hosting capabilities, haven’t fallen on deaf ears.

Gurvinder Momi  heard the business community make rumblings about  a convention centre in 2009, and that planted the seed for a venture he debuted this week— the Kelowna Banquet and Conference Centre.

“We are now the second largest facility in Kelowna, and we hold up to 370 people,” he said, adding while this week was the grand opening, it’s been quietly running for a year, as Momi worked out the kinks.

“We can do anything — small groups, big groups, of all kinds of focus.”

With three rooms with space for groups as small as 40, escalating to the maximum capacity, Momi’s sure  he’ll meet at least some of the need for convention or conference space he’s heard about.

“We thought there was nothing much available in Kelowna, and we have a background in this kind of business, so we re-did the whole building,” he said.

“It was a huge project.”

Although he forged ahead, the economy’s less than robust state in 2009 did curb his enthusiasm for  grander plans.

Initially he had intentions to buy a space at the base of Highway 33 and Highway 97 that  would have doubled convention capacity but, he said, the economy didn’t warrant such a venture.

Now his conference centre sits above several businesses at the corner of Pandosy Street and Leon Avenue, an area he’s seen positive changes in since he invested.

All signs that his faith in the economy may be rewarded.

Meantime, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is still pushing ahead on behalf of its members to look into whether something on a larger scale is needed in Kelowna.

“So there was an initial phase 1 assessment done that indicated that our city had all the right assets to be successful in having a convention centre,” said chamber CEO Caroline Grover.

“And the recommendation was that a full business feasibility study would be required.”

Since the start of 2012 the Chamber has been working to drum up somewhere between $60,000 to $100,000 to undertake the study.

Once that’s done, it will be clear what the size facility is needed in Kelowna, and whether someone interested in taking on the project would have a shot at being successful.

Grover wasn’t sure when that study would be complete.

“Quite frankly, it’s all about the money,” she explained. “Our goal is to do that by this fall, but it’s contingent on (fundraising.)”