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Prospera Place assessment: Building’s ‘bones’ in good shape, but concerns noted

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A recent assessment of Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C., says the Okanagan’s largest arena is in fair to good shape, but there are concerns with the 23-year-old building.

Those concerns were apparently enough to prevent the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets from bidding on the 2023 Memorial Cup, which was awarded to Kamloops in late May.

In a press release issued not long after the CHL announced that Kamloops would host the national championship tournament next year, the Rockets sent out a press release.

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And part of that release said the “audit found that there were significant deficiencies that needed to be upgraded for the facility to meet the CHL standards for hosting the Memorial Cup.”

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Completed in March 1999 for an estimated $20 million through a public-private partnership (P3), the arena is now in the public spotlight after the Rockets announced those concerns prevented them from bidding on the Cup.

Kelowna was awarded the Memorial Cup in 2020, but the CHL cancelled the tournament two months before it happened, citing COVID-19 concerns. The 2021 Memorial Cup in Ontario was also cancelled for the same reasons.

It was hoped Kelowna would soon host the event again, but, at best, that won’t happen for at least another four years. The tournament annually rotates between the WHL, OHL and QMJHL, and the next WHL opening will be in 2026.

If the Rockets decide to throw their hat into the bidding ring, it will likely be decided if the arena meets the CHL’s standards.

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The 115-page assessment, released to Global News by the City of Kelowna, says the “building needs attention to update and upgrade some of its physical components, equipment and finish materials, but, as well, design philosophies towards these types of buildings have shifted significantly over the last two decades since it opened its doors.

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“In order for Prospera Place to continue to compete, it should address some of the areas where we consider it to be underperforming.”

Areas of concern include increasing food and beverage service along with the number of washrooms.

“Prospera Place is slightly underserviced with the current number of washroom fixtures and uneven distribution,” reads the assessment. “A target design ratio today might be 50 patrons per washroom fixture (WC or urinal).

“The existing washroom counts do meet B.C. building code requirements, however, building code quotas never go far enough to satisfy the actual patron demand which tends to peak during intermissions in these types of facilities.”

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Other issues: sealants (caulking) and weatherstripping, ventilation, damaged roof drains, lighting, security system, fire alarm system and the dressing rooms.

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“The hockey tenant space where the Rockets are located would be considered undersized compared to modern facilities. Likewise, the community dressing rooms are in the smaller size range,” said the assessment.

“Newer buildings are providing more dressing room space and upgraded finishes for concert artists in order to make the building more appealing to the touring groups.”

The assessment also said “the bigger and better team facilities are relied upon in order to attract top talent, and to compete with evolving technology and training techniques for modern athletes.

“The current Rocket facilities were probably consistent with other teams in the league at the original time of construction, but today are considered undersized in comparison with what is happening in newer buildings across the country.”

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When WHL teams visit Prospera Place, the visitors use not one, but two dressing rooms located across from each other.

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And when Kelowna hosted the 2004 Memorial Cup, the Medicine Hat Tigers used those two dressing rooms, while portable dressing rooms had to be built for the OHL champion Guelph Storm and the QMJHL champion Gatineau Olympiques. Those portables were located in the arena’s parking lot.

The assessment also said the arena’s sound system needs upgrading and that the south-end concourse would be a good place for a beer/bar concept.

The assessment ended with a list of recommended remediations, an opinion of those costs and an estimated time frame.

For example, the caulking was listed as an immediate repair and had an estimated price tag of $80,000 to $125,000, while the weather stripping, also in need of immediate attention, had an estimated price of $7,500 to $15,000.

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One of the larger price tags: replacing the mechanical roof in three years’ time, at a cost of $750,000 to $800,000.

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The assessment was issued by Stadium Consultants International, which said “our overall opinion is that Prospera Place appears to be in fair to good condition,” adding “in other words, the building’s ‘bones’ appear to be in good shape.”

Global News has reached out to the City of Kelowna, the Kelowna Rockets and GSL Group, which owns the building, for comment.

In 2029, the P3 deal will end, with the city expected to take control of the building.

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