The operators of the Squamish Adventure Centre (SAC) are asking Squamish council for $150,000 to help pay for operation of the facility in 2013 — the same amount as last year.
That's bad news if you believe the publicly built welcome centre and meeting venue should have been paying for itself by the time it entered its eighth year of operation, but probably good news if you look at the marked increase in usage by both local residents and tourists over the past five years.
The facility just off Highway 99 has been the object of both praise and scorn ever since the initial construction budget ballooned from $2.1 million to $4.7 million by its completion in 2006. In subsequent years, succeeding councils have sought new revenue sources to help reduce the size of taxpayers' contribution to the building's operation and upkeep — so far with limited success.
On Tuesday (Feb. 26), the Squamish Sustainability Corp. (SSC) — the arm's-length municipal entity that runs the centre — approached council with the request for $150,000 to help pay for the buildings operation and $51,000 to begin to address some much-needed maintenance work on the building.
On Tuesday (Feb. 26), the Squamish Sustainability Corp. (SSC) — the arm's-length municipal entity that runs the centre — approached council with the request for $150,000 to help pay for the buildings operation and $51,000 to begin to address some much-needed issues with the building.
“It is now in its eighth year of operation and so far minimal amounts have been spent on maintenance work,” said Deanna Wampler, SSC operations manager.
“The building was built with very green wood and there are gaps in some spots” because the wood has cured and the building had settled, she said. In a couple of spots those inside the building can look through those gaps to the outside, and the loss of heat obviously adds to the cost of heating and cooling the building, Wampler said.
Doing the work this year “will lengthen the life of the building,” she said.
In a presentation as part of the kick-off to Squamish council's 2013 budget process, Wampler said 171,961 people came through the centre's doors in 2012, compared to the approximately 65,000 who entered in 2008, the last time officials counted building visitations for the entire year.
What's more, the revenue that comes from those renting office, commercial and meeting space in the building increased from $90,000 in 2011 to more than $116,000 in 2012, Wampler said.
On the other hand, Wampler said the projector in the facility's theatre needs to be replaced at a cost of some $15,000. Because of that the theatre is “un-rentable” for meetings that require use of the theatre's presentation screen. SSC officials intend to use some of the SSC's $29,000 operating surplus from 2012 to help pay for that, she said.
Coun. Ron Sander acknowledged that gains have been made in many respects but stressed the need to redouble efforts to find additional revenue streams.
“Are you looking for private partnerships to run a movie theatre or come up with other proposals to increase revenue?” Sander asked.
“This morning's [municipal budget] message was an almost 13 per cent tax increase — buzz, buzz — and we have to look at the big picture and try to drive that down. At the end of the day, we've got to look at reducing that $150,000 to $100,000, and down from there.”
SSC board member Neil Plumb said the board is aware of the budgetary challenges and is still trying to identify and pursue other revenue streams. However, “the opportunities to generate more rental revenue are limited because there is a lot of public space in the building,” he said.
Dan McRae, DOS economic development coordinator and SSC board member, said that in the past the potential for corporate naming rights has been examined and not borne fruit, but said that if council wishes, the SSC could pursue that avenue again.
Councillors Sue Chapelle and Bryan Raiser both said that, while difficult to measure in dollars, the building's value to the tourism industry and to the community — as a meeting place and for programs such as Little Squids — is significant.
“Looking at a corporate sponsorship is one way to make it more cost efficient but it's bringing value through all the visitation,” Chapelle said. “I do a lot of my meetings with people in there and it's just a thriving place to be.”