Roll out the red carpet
Published Thursday January 13th, 2011
Convention centre | Mayor says he's proud to see building almost finished
By ADAM BOWIE
The curtains have parted on the Fredericton Convention Centre, giving a large contingent of community leaders, federal and provincial government representatives and the public their first opportunity to check out the nearly finished $28-million facility.
The crowd gathered to tour the spacious ballroom, test the facility's escalators and to hear remarks from dignitaries such as Premier David Alward, Canada's Minister of National Revenue and Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield, Mayor Brad Woodside and Hollis Cole, the president and CEO of ADI Group Inc. - the company behind the facility's construction.
The convention centre, which will host conferences, meetings and concerts, is outfitted with state-of-the-art teleconferencing equipment and multimedia facilities.
It has obtained a silver LEED Canada certification - a designation that's given to facilities that incorporate environmentally friendly technologies into the building.
Woodside said he was proud to be able to attend the official opening of the 66,000-square-foot (6,131-square-metre) facility, which will be able to accommodate 1,000 seated patrons and 1,500 visitors for stand-up style concert events.
"This, without a doubt, in my tenure as mayor and on Fredericton city council is one of the most exciting things that has ever happened," he said.
The mayor said he's not worried about the naysayers who have raised questions about the need for the facility, the timing of its construction or its location.
"There will be some that will say, 'You're building this, it's crazy, you're spending...,'" he said, allowing his words to trail off.
"That's to be expected, but you know it's the right thing to do."
He said he expects the facility to become a major piece of the downtown landscape, contributing valuable revenue for hotels, restaurants, bars and other local businesses.
"I think the majority of people in this city appreciate that we've taken this initiative and they'll understand and appreciate the benefits."
Work is still underway on a number of meeting rooms and in the section of the building that will provide space for the premier's office and house much of the staff working in the Centennial Building.
Construction crews still have to close off several open areas in the building's exterior. But Woodside said those issues won't have any bearing on tonight's state of the city address.
"The building will be completely finished in about a month. We've got 14 rooms down here, they're working on that," he said. "They've done an incredible job getting this ready for (the) chamber of commerce event. This part of (the facility) is ready.
"The reception and the ballroom area is ready. That's the most important part. It'll be open as soon as they can possibly get it open.
"The parking garage is going to be available (tonight) for the state of the city address free of charge ... And then we're going to close it again, get all the proper signage, and put the electronics in and things like that. Probably another three weeks (for the garage to be ready)."
More than 50 events have been booked for the convention centre so far.
General manager Cathy Pugh said about 65-75 per cent of the events already scheduled involve organizations that will come here from other jurisdictions.
She said she expects booking activity to rise now that the facility is closer to completion and as events begin to happen at the site.
"People can be apprehensive about making or confirming a booking in a convention centre that is not complete. And you can't blame them," she said. "With the booking pace that we have right now, we have no complaints."
Pugh said there will also be local and provincial meetings at the centre in the coming months.
"There will be a provincial meeting, a corporate meeting, maybe a smaller gathering - less than 50 people, sometimes as few as 10 people - as well as an international booking that's coming in June.
"We're anticipating 350 delegates to that one. In the fall, we have a provincial meeting for 500 delegates and then we also do intimate dinners and banquets," she said.
"We have the mayor's gala (happening this evening) as well as the premier's state of the province at the end of the month, which is about 800 people. And we're also working with the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival to see what they might like to do and how we can accommodate them in September.''
She said the convention centre will make the capital region a viable option for a number of major events.
"There have been Canadian associations that have had to bypass Fredericton before because we didn't have the facility to accommodate them. We may have lost business to Saint John, Halifax, St. John's," she said.
"We've actually been promoting this convention centre for over two years and we've been able to advise them this is coming."
The construction of the Fredericton Convention Centre was made possible by $19.9 million in funding from the City of Fredericton and through a joint funding partnership by the governments of Canada and New Brunswick, who contributed a total of $8 million towards the cost.