PENTICTON - Halfway through the 10 day Penticton ITU Multisport Championship Festival, it appears the sports event has been a boon for most but a bone of contention for others who feel they are being negatively affected by road closures associated with it.
The City's chief administrative officer Peter Weeber says there have been a lot more positives than negatives so far during the first five days of the festival, but road closures have been an issue.
“We’ve had some challenges around business access in some areas, but our takeaway, from the City perspective is we’ve learned we’re going to have to get more involved in the notification process for these street closures,” he says.
Weeber says the current system has event organizers submit traffic plans to the City for approval, with the onus on them to work with the people impacted by the traffic routes.
He says that has been working with “varying degrees of success.”
“Our residents and businesses pay the bills, we have an obligation to them to make sure if an event is going to impact their lives, they should know about it,” Weeber says, adding he’s committed to doing a better job as far as the city goes, in the future, not just for this event but others that involve road closures or traffic re-routes.
“The people that pay the bills have a right to know what’s going on, and we have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t overly inconvenienced,” he says.
Weeber pointed out Poplar Grove Winery had to close all day as a result of the race events, something he said wasn’t a reasonable expectation.
“We have to find a way to accommodate business. They need to be more closely informed,” he says.
Other than traffic and some business complaints, Weeber says the experience so far has been full of positives, noting the number of different nationalities clearly visible in the city.
“Everywhere I walk I’m hearing a different language spoken. We’re putting Penticton on the international map, and connecting with people from other countries,” he says.
“I met an American couple who came just to race in the first day’s event, and decided to stay the whole week," he says, adding restaurants and hotels are busy.
“The ITU and Multisport Penticton is doing an amazing job,” he adds, noting a lot of work has been taking place behind the scenes.
Small independent downtown businesses have probably seen the most inconvenience from the 10 day race event, with the downtown portion of Main Street and Ellis Street closed all morning to traffic yesterday, Monday, Aug. 21.
Penticton ITU representative Holly Bird says the organization has heard from the city of some businesses experiencing negative impact.
"We did our very best to ensure we tried to communicate in every way possible the 22 months leading up to the festival, cooperating fully with the City of Penticton, the chamber and the Downtown Penticton Association," she says, adding the event has been otherwise unfolding very well, with a few minor issues as might be expected.
"The response from athletes and spectators has been phenomenal. We've been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we've received from athletes, about the people and the region," she says.
Bum Wrap’s Shannon Nunweiller says business in her shop was “down a little bit” but thought the festival was good for the city, bringing lots of people into town.
Next door at Sirius Science and Nature, assistant manager Jesse Doucette says he hasn't seen any impact from the festival.
“We were smoking busy all day yesterday, although the eclipse was happening and people were buying glasses to view it,” he says, adding the multisport event was typical of an event where children are often obliged to come to, and often get rewarded afterward with a purchase from the store.
But Lindsey Hall of Softy’s Shoes found the road closures frustrating, to say the least.
“Our livelihood is being negatively affected at the worst possible time,” he says, adding corporate locations at malls and big box stores outside the downtown core weren’t going to be affected by the festival's road closures.
“We’re overly burdened by these events. I’ve spoken with many business owners who feel there is a proper time and place for these events. We’ve got Queen’s Park and the South Okanagan Events Centre to stage these events from - why does it have to impose on commerce on Main Street?” he says, adding other events that close streets or reroute traffic have a similar, negative affect on small main street businesses.
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