After a strong end to 2019, the Abbotsford Centre had a challenging 2020.

After a strong end to 2019, the Abbotsford Centre had a challenging 2020.

Abbotsford Centre aims to rise from the ashes of 2020

After a strong 2019 and early-2020, COVID-19 hit the Abbotsford Centre hard

The fall of 2019 was the busiest ever for the Abbotsford Centre.

A 50-day stretch from Sept. 14 to Nov. 3 saw the facility host 31 events and attract more than 48,000 patrons.

The arena hosted everything from a Vancouver Canucks exhibition game to the Fraser Valley Taco Festival and also brought in music acts such as Rascal Flatts and Dallas Smith. Even The Wiggles came to town during that period, and 2020 was set to be another year of growth for the Abbotsford Centre.

RELATED: Vancouver Canucks impress in win at Abbotsford Centre

But then 2020 happened.

Events were postponed, sometimes several times over, others were cancelled and the arena was unused for a great deal of 2020 – not from a lack of demand but from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Going back a year ago, I think we were really excited for what 2020 was going to bring,” said Rick Comeau, the general manager of the AC. “We kicked off the year with a really good start in the first quarter after a great fall and this year was set to be one of our best ever as far as events go.”

The first rescheduling that had to occur was the Gnarly Barley Brew Festival, which was originally set for March 14. The festival was set to feature more than 20 breweries from all across the province and allow attendees the chance to sample a variety of different drinks. It was pushed back to Aug. 29 but then eventually had to be outright cancelled.

RELATED: Abbotsford events feeling the impacts of COVID-19

Brad Paisley on March 7 was the final big event hosted by the AC for 2020, but by the next week postponements and cancellations started coming in. Each event organizer had a different mindset about moving forward, which made for a lot of uncertainty for everyone involved moving forward.

“Some were cancelling right away like Cirque du Soleil,” Comeau said. “Other shows wanted to postpone but they had no idea when to postpone to. It was really challenging trying to work with everybody to kind of move our calendar without knowing when that end date was, and even now it’s challenging for us.”

Comeau said it’s disappointing for the fans who anticipate the shows, but the pandemic has also been devastating to his staff. The AC has 16 full-time staff in normal times, but in early-July they had to lay off over half the staff due to all the uncertainty moving forward. There are now just seven full-time staff at the AC, and there have also been a number of part-time positions cut related to when events occur such as security, concession and host jobs.

Despite the lack of potential events to host, Comeau said the AC has been finding unique ways to have some money coming in. The arena hosted several movie shoots in the fall, and also partnered with one of their tenants, the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds hockey team, to host the Cohort Cup, which started in October.

The Cohort Cup featured some of the top U18, U16 and U15 talents from across the province, and the Thunderbirds invited five other organizations to compete in the tournament. Teams and age groups played on different weekends, and all COVID-19 protocols were adhered to.

RELATED: Cohort Cup hockey tournament coming to Abbotsford

Comeau said only two people involved with the tournament tested positive for COVID-19 and the virus was not transmitted or spread anywhere else after the positive case was discovered. He said the tournament was a success, but has been put on pause following the new restrictions involving sports in B.C.

The AC has also been offering several virtual experiences for locals to enjoy the fun of a big event in the comfort of their own home. On Nov. 28, they offered an opportunity to watch the popular 1989 holiday movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo.

The AC is also offering a virtual improv show from two of the stars of Whose Line Is It Anyway. Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood host four unique shows via Zoom that will allow the audience to participate in the show. The first show was on Nov. 27, with other shows planned for Dec. 5, 13 and 19.

“These types of events aren’t about making money for us,” Comeau said. “It’s us getting out in the community and trying to keep them engaged in what we have going on. I think it’s important for us to be looking at these types of virtual experiences right now.”

Comeau said he’s anticipating inviting the public back soon, and added that those in attendance will see more safety procedures implemented permanently. The building bought several electrostatic sprayers to help workers clean and disinfect more efficiently. The AC is also looking into contactless ticket scanning for entry and the mobile ordering and payment for concession items.

“When we do reopen, it will look different than it did a year ago,” he said. “We want our guests to come back and feel that it’s a safe venue to come into. But that first performance – I just can’t wait for that to happen. I’m really excited for that day to come.”

The next scheduled event at the AC is the Iron Assassin’s Demolition Derby. That event is tentatively set for April 10, 2021.

Other upcoming events scheduled include: Jeff Dunham (April 21), and ZZ Top and Cheap Trick (April 23). The Fraser Valley Bandits pro basketball team is expected to host home dates beginning in May.

RELATED: Craft brewery near Abbotsford Centre gets OK from council

abbotsfordCoronavirusEventsSports

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.
Fraser Valley chicken abuse trial delayed until February

Originally scheduled for a jury trial, Sofina and Chilliwack company now face judge alone

Sheriff Avory Chapman was last seen Jan. 20 on Wellington Avenue in Chilliwack. (RCMP)
RCMP look for missing man last seen in downtown Chilliwack

21-year-old Sheriff Avory Chapman has been missing since Jan. 20

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual interference in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Abbotsford youngster Hudson Poittris is hoping to raise money to provide students at his school friendship bracelets. (Submitted)
VIDEO: Abbotsford youth launches GoFundMe for friendship bracelets

Hudson Poittris, nine, hopes bracelets will increase inclusivity and kindness

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Menno Home in Abbotsford

Long-term care home had 67 cases and 13 deaths since mid-November

Rose Sawka, 91, waves to her son through the window of a care home in Prince Rupert in October. Residents of the care home received their first vaccine dose Jan. 20. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
B.C. care home visitor access to expand by March, Dix says

Staff, residents, essential visitors top priorities for vaccine

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is looking into the death of man discovered Jan. 11 in east Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
B.C.’s police watchdog investigating man’s death in Maple Ridge

Man was found dead Jan. 11 after recent contact with police

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read