Economic report cool on Pitt Meadows conference centre

Identifies a shortage of hotel rooms, though

A new hotel and conference centre for Pitt Meadows may be a long way off, after a study by the Pitt Meadows Economic Development Corporation found a number of challenges standing in the way of such a development.

While the report finds there is a definite lack of hotel rooms and meeting space locally, more has to be done to develop local tourism options and amenities capable of drawing business travelers.

Vicki McLeod, interim CEO of the Pitt Meadows Economic Development Corporation, said the purpose of the study was to take the temperature of the local market to see if there was demand for such a facility.

“This gives anyone who may be interested in developing [a conference centre] a starting point,” she said.

While the report identifies a shortage of hotel rooms locally, making it difficult for local groups to host many provincial or national level sporting events, what accommodations do exist are underused the majority of the time.

“There’s a chicken and an egg situation,” said McLeod.

The continued expansion of the Golden Ears Business Park may be one way to fuel demand for a hotel/conference centre in Pitt Meadows, said Mayor Don MacLean.

In all, the Onni Group owns 92 acres of land at the south end of Harris Road, capable supporting more than 1.5 million square feet of light industrial space, giving it the potential to be the second largest development of its kind in B.C.

Currently the largest employers in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are the local school district and Ridge Meadows Hospital.

“They aren’t likely to be bringing people in for conferences here,” said MacLean.

With new businesses coming to Pitt Meadows, he hopes it will create a demand for business travelers.

A new hotel/conference centre could mean economic spinoffs for local hospitality and service businesses, McLeod notes. However, Pitt Meadows would face regional competition from Surrey and Langley, as both cities have ample hotel and conference facilities.

A proposed 120-room hotel and conference centre in downtown Maple Ridge would also likely compete for business travellers with any facility built in Pitt Meadows.

However, if a conference centre were to be built in Pitt Meadows, it would not be a municipal facility, MacLean noted.

No developers have yet approached the City of Pitt Meadows about building such a facility, he added.

Pitt Meadows council was to discuss the issue Tuesday night, and decide on wether to go ahead with the study’s recommendations and form a focus group with the local hospitality industry and look further at the feasibility of such a facility.

“We certainly want to know if there’s an appetite,” said MacLean.