THUNDER BAY – OPINION – Why replacing the Fort William Gardens is a “Smart Growth” decision and the Convention Centre aspect is still important to me.
When the time came to replace our small outdated Airport terminal I was pleasantly shocked by what replaced it, as I didn’t know if Thunder Bay really needed or could support such a large facility. Build it and they will come played true to this still impressive modern structure. In 2011 our airport’s economic impact was $569 million of GDP activity – 15 percent of Thunder Bay’s total GDP. And it’s still growing! Fact: The Airport is one of the largest centres of employment in the Thunder Bay area.
When the time came to replace our General Hospitals we built a modern fully accessible Health Science Centre which has generated thousands of jobs, many of them directly related to research and with these, over 2,600 employees, the TBRHSC is the largest employer in Thunder Bay. This new hospital also helped create growth at our University which garnered approximately $128 million in economic development for the region. Had we not taken this step, we would not have the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute! Not to mention Thunder Bay was expected to decline to 80,000 people had we not taken this bold step.
The time has come to replace the Fort William Gardens; it is no longer capable of hosting modern day concerts and large big media sporting events. It has become structurally questionable and obviously outdated. In its hay day, when the F.W. Gardens was thriving Thunder Bay too thrived! it seems both have lost steam and have declined together in harmony.. Is this a coincidence? I do not think so… This is a clear picture of lack of modern amenities and how a city’s shrine effects its economy.
The proposed Thunder Bay Event and Convention Centre will give Thunder Bay so many levels of return and I believe it will boost growth in the city.
Our Event Centre will attract visitors that would not otherwise travel to our city. The Convention Centre components of this project will generate what is known as delegate dollars. In its proposed location on our waterfront with the right management group…Thunder Bay’s Event Centre will attract many national and international conferences and conventions. Non-resident delegates typically spend more than four times what tourists do daily, and many extend their stay with pre-and-post-conference travel. In addition, recent surveys reveal that more than 40% of non-resident convention delegates intend to return within a year. And there is more: nothing could support our local product and services like national or international conventions. Visitors are curious about what makes us different, our foods and traditions and such events require a wide range of services and supplies providing business for many local companies.
Thunder Bay is truly becoming a diverse city and with the Thunder Bay Events Centre comes new capacity to host! The meetings and convention business are Canada’s economic giant – silently generating more than $4 billion per year in diversified economic impacts. But it would be wrong to assume that the benefits end there, or that the full impact can only be measured in dollars and cents.
For one, the Thunder Bay Event Centre will create jobs both directly and indirectly in areas beyond tourism and hospitality – not to mention the effects it will have on our airport, youth retention and people recruitment for the greater good of Thunder Bay and our region.
We have seen proof of the positive effect our Waterfront Development has had in its surrounding area. The Waterfront District is thriving and it has been a boost to the Bay and Algoma area too. Now add the Event Centre, and these businesses which pay city taxes will get a bigger boost and not only from local people but from the delegates and visitors who come to the Event Centre.