July 20th, 2024

Council to consider if city should operate Co-op Place

By Brendan Miller on December 12, 2023.

Leah Prestayko, director of community development, gives a presentation on the operating model review of Co-co Place and the Esplanade to public services committee Monday.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

bmiller@medicinehatnews.com

City council is expected to talk over the city’s operation of Co-op Place and the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre following public services committee’s adoption of the item Monday.

Council will also consider the city’s request of an additional $263,000 to the 2024 community development budget to increase staff at both facilities.

The city took over operations of Co-op Place in 2020 after a five-year contract with operator ASM Global expired.

Since that time staff have been conducting an evaluation to determine the most effective long-term operating model.

They say they would like to see the city continue operating both facilities synergistically.

“Maintaining operation of both venues allows us the ability to place entertainment in the facility where it makes more sense both for the audience and the entertainer,” said Leah Prestayko, director of community development. “Major events can be better scheduled so that we’re not competing against each other for the same night with attendance at the same facility or two facilities.”

Since the city took over operations it has seen a slow increase in attendance numbers at both facilities following the lifting of pandemic health measures.

Staff say the cost per person to enjoy a venue is also down 20 per cent from when it was under operation of ASM Global.

The evaluation also found the city can save more than $440,000 annually by operating the facility rather than hiring a third party.

The city says there are benefits to operating both facilities, including cross-promotion marketing, the use of a single ticket platform and increased brand recognition.

“Purchasing of food and beverage for both facilities provides us increased purchasing power, and the ability to share inventory across facilities. Having food and beverage staff at both places actually allowed us to better serve the Esplanade and to provide some new programming that is specifically food and beverage based, like Dining in the Dark, things that we wouldn’t have seen before,” says Prestayko.

However the city says both facilities are experiencing staffing issues and council is being asked to approve an increase of $263,000 to the 2024 community development budget for more staff.

“We have a skilled and capable team who has shown that they are able to deliver a variety of quality experiences whether that’d be on ice, on stage, on dirt – large or small. And their diligence around planning for the comfort and safety and security of those in attendance is exemplary,” said Prestayko.

Coun. Robert Dumanowski has observed long waiting times for food and beverages at some large events in both facilities.

“I sat back and reflected, ‘If you had one or two more people, the amount of turnover in product you would have – the margins are fantastic. I’m sure it would certainly benefit the revenue side of it.”

The city hopes continued operation of the facilities will eventually become profitable as well as attract more performers to the city.

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