A lack of convention centre space in Ottawa has forced a large Canadian company
to locate its national convention
Tim Hortons sent a letter to the Ottawa Congress Centre stating it has been forced
to locate its gathering elsewhere
because the facility can't handle the company's requirements.
In the letter, Tim Hortons president and chief operating officer Paul House states
that the convention centres space "was at
full capacity in hosting our July 2000 functions and would undoubtedly be
insufficient to house our next convention three
The 2000 conference attracted between 1500 and 1800 Tim Hortons delegates
plus the company's suppliers, Congress
Centre president David Hamilton says.
Leslie Miller, president of the Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority (OTCA),
says the loss of the conference will cost
the city about $2 million in spin-off revenue.
Jacquelin Holzman, chair of the Congress Centre, says the Tim Hortons news is a
"tragedy," but the problem is nothing
"It's a crisis," she says. "In the last five years though, $22 million worth of business
was turned down at the Congress
Centre because we couldn't handle it."
The flight of the company has the city's tourism authority kicking its public
awareness for a new convention centre into high
Otto Heberlein, chair of the OTCA, says new convention space for the city is an
"(Tim Hortons) is one of the companies that cannot be housed in our facilities any
longer," he says. "We're really falling
behind and we really need to step to the plate now."
Heberlein says the OTCA is beginning its public awareness campaign to rally the
city's businesses and its citizens behind
the project, especially now that it's obvious the city is falling behind.
"It's easy to overlook tourism, but it's a key growth sector to the city," he says.
"We're not looking for money. That's not the
point. We need to bring the issue to the forefront."
As part of its plan, the convention centre backers have sent letters to city councillors
and the mayor to stress the importance
of supporting the project and getting it started quickly. The campaign was
purposely started to coincide with the election of
the new council.
Key members of the business community, such as the Ottawa Centre for Research
and Innovation (OCRI), the Greater
Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and high-tech firm Mitel all sent letters to the
council in support of moving the project
Heberlein says building a convention centre should be the city's No. 1
infrastructure priority, ahead of Queensway
expansion or the light rail project, because of its revenue potential.
He estimates that a convention centre would generate about $12 million in annual
tax revenues for the city once operational.
OTCA statistics show that Ottawa has less convention space than cities like
Winnipeg and Halifax. Because of this lack of
space, the city has lost almost $78 million in revenues. This translates to 2,286
full-time jobs lost, the OTCA says.
In late 1999, then regional chair Bob Chiarelli spearheaded The Ottawa
Partnership (TOP), a community-wide initiative that
recognized seven areas of growth facing Ottawa's economy. Tourism was
recognized as one of the clusters primed for
growth, but a lack of convention space was pinpointed as the sector's major
obstacle to growth.
Holzman says getting the project moving will not only help the tourism industry, but
will also bring more than $235 million
worth of construction projects to the Rideau Centre parcel of land.
She points out that the convention centre, which is to be built on top of the Rideau
Centre, is the main factor holding back
the planned $50-million expansion of the mall as well as the creation of a new
400-room downtown hotel.