The City of Port Alberni is considering adding a big screen to the Alberni Valley Multiplex, but city council is reluctant to make the purchase during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director of Parks, Recreation and Heritage Willa Thorpe on Monday, July 13 asked for council to consider issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for the purchase and installation of a digital screen in Weyerhaeuser Arena.
A digital screen would “enhance guest experience” and would offer new revenue generation streams for the city through advertising, said Thorpe. The cost would be just under $200,000, and the city would be purchasing the screen with reserve funds, so it would have “zero impact” on taxation, she added.
“We would develop a plan to recoup the costs inside of the useful life of the screen,” said Thorpe.
Councillors Helen Poon, Dan Washington and Ron Paulson expressed support for a big screen.
“Having worked [at the multiplex] for 10 years, it’s one thing that we’ve looked at since the multiplex opened,” said Paulson. “I think it’s one thing that we’re sorely missing in our Weyerhaeuser Arena right now.”
However, other councillors did not like the fact that the request was coming outside of budget deliberations.
“I love the idea,” said Councillor Cindy Solda. “I don’t know if it’s the right time.”
“I am struggling with this coming quite out of the blue,” added Mayor Sharie Minions. “For me, it’s difficult…to commit to this type of purchase. Even though it’s from reserve funds, it does impact taxation because we put money into that reserve every year.”
Earlier this year, the city put out a request for proposals (RFP) for the naming rights of the Alberni Valley Multiplex. This RFP will close at the end of July.
“[The digital screen] could go hand in hand with that,” said Thorpe on Monday.
Council agreed on Monday to hold off making a decision about the screen until after the RFP for naming rights has closed.
“I think this has caught us a little out of the blue,” said Councillor Ron Corbeil. “It’s a significant amount of money. The money comes from the taxpayer, no matter how you frame it. If there is interest in the naming rights, it might make this decision a lot easier.”
“We just pulled a whole bunch of things out of our budget,” Minions agreed. “I just don’t think it sends the right message to make…a $200,000 purchase.”
The multiplex, which has been closed since March, re-opened on Monday, July 13 for the West Coast Hockey Prep Camp. The camp will run for four weeks, after which the Alberni Valley Bulldogs will be hosting a pair of camps in August.