Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says the decision to turn over the operation of the Tradex building to a new management team is a “win-win” for everyone.
Braun said the move turns the facility into the “revenue-generating asset” that was his goal from the beginning, and it ensures the facility remains events-based.
“I’m feeling very good about it. I always thought that the city was giving away Tradex for zero revenue … I know we were criticized quite a bit for quite awhile (for seeking other options) but I think the proof is in the pudding, and residents should be happy about this arrangement as well,” he said.
The city announced Tuesday morning (Feb. 15) that Harbour Event and Convention Centre (HECC) has been selected to run the facility to host trade shows, as well as concerts, filming and other events, starting on July 8.
Under the arrangement, the city is expected to receive an estimated $2 million annually over the next 12 years, including $1.17 million in rent that will increase over time. The city will also receive operating expenses, property taxes, $1.50 per ticket sold for any event, and 25 per cent of revenues earned through filming.
Tourism Abbotsford has been running Tradex since 2003, holding several consumer events each year. But the city did not collect any revenue from the activities; only a capital contribution, which Braun said was “nowhere near” what the city – and by extension, taxpayers – was paying towards the building.
Braun said he wasn’t involved in the discussions about Tradex once proposals started coming in and he knew one of the proponents.
But he was pleased when he heard the outcome.
“It gets back to fiscal discipline. I know some people think that’s all we focus on. That isn’t all we focus on, but it is a central focus of council on everything … We have to pay attention to the money side because we don’t have some things maybe in Abbotsford because we gave too much away,” Braun said.
He said he heard from about a dozen exhibitors who had been involved in consumer shows at Tradex who were concerned about the future of their events.
Many of those exhibitors signed a petition in April 2021 – a month after Braun announced that the city was seeking other options for the running of Tradex – saying that, without the facility, they might have nowhere else to go.
But Braun said it looks like those events will be able to continue, depending on what arrangements they can make with HECC.
He said he also likes the plan to use Tradex for film shoots. Braun said Abbotsford is in big demand from production companies, including for the use of the old courthouse, and Tradex will provide even more options to attract them.
HECC manages the Harbour Event and Convention Centre in Vancouver, staging music and cultural events. At Tradex, they will operate as Fraser Valley Exhibition Centre Inc.
City spokesperson Aletta Vanderheyden said a total of 13 proposals were received for Tradex. They included those wanting to use the site for industrial business, and as a recreation or event-based venue. Proposals included the purchase of the building, short- and long-term leases, and management of the site.