After a nearly two-year absence, trade shows are back in action at Tradex.
Although still under COVID-19 restrictions which see a 50 per cent capacity limit, it will be good to see activity inside the walls, said Craig Nichols, executive director of Tourism Abbotsford and Tradex.
“We’re looking forward to reconnecting and getting caught up with our many show producers,” he said. “We’re getting back into our groove. The team is getting excited.”
Although last weekend’s Hot Tub and Swim Spa Blowout unofficially kicked things off, Nichols said this weekend’s Fraser Valley Home Expo should be the start of bigger crowds.
“A lot of eyes will be on that event,” Nichols said. “I’m sure other show producers will be in attendance to see how things go.”
Home Expo show producer Jo-Ann Whitman agrees their show will be heavily scrutinized.
“This year more than ever, we are being referred to as the ‘litmus test’ for shows resuming again,” she said.
The 50 per cent capacity limit means the main hall, which normally holds a crowd of 5,000, will be restricted to 2,500. While Nichols expects the Home Expo to be busy, he says the true test will come when the Earlybird RV Show rolls in the following week (Feb. 17-20).
In order to accommodate bigger shows, Nichols said some producers will implement timed ticketing. The “natural flow” of people attending shows will also mean crowds being spread out over the course of the day.
Nichol’s true wish is for restrictions to be totally lifted, making it business as usual, although news of whether the building will be sold or leased is still in the offing. Nichols said he spoke with Mayor Henry Braun earlier this year and was told a decision on Tradex’s future could come in late February.
“I’m fairly certain it’s not us,” he said in regards to their submitted application. “I just hope it remains an event-based building.”
While the return of trade shows marks a positive change for Tradex, Nichols said the “silver lining is we’ve hosted other things that we might never have hosted.”
Indoor volleyball and basketball courts were installed last year and were a big hit, Nichols said. As well, Tradex was used for movie shoots and, of course, served as an emergency centre during the historic flooding in November.
“People have found other uses for the building.”
Nichols credits government support programs as “being absolutely critical to getting us through” the pandemic. Nichols said the combined net loss from the Tradex operation in 2020 and 2021 was around $400,000.
The city announced last year that it was looking at what other opportunies might be available for the future of Tradex, which is currently operated by Tourism Abbotsford. The building was listed for sale or lease in September, but no further announcements have been made by the city.