The Comox Valley Farmers Institute is proposing a multi-million dollar agriplex to inhabit a corner of the exhibition grounds near the curling rink.
Ben Vanderhorst, president of the organization, says the Valley lacks a facility of this capacity to host a large convention — which translates into lost revenue and lost economic benefits.
“This is an economic generator for the Valley,” Vanderhorst said Tuesday at regional district committee of the whole.
The agriplex would contain 56,000 square feet of exhibition space, with a stage in front of the building. It would be constructed in two phases, the first at a cost of $4.6 million and the second $4.5 million.
“I take a look at this project, and I equate it with the building of the civilian terminal as to the economic benefit that has come to the Valley,” said Murray Presley, who accompanied Vanderhorst Tuesday. “This building, or something close to it, will have an enormous impact on what we can do in the Valley.”
While convention centres in other communities have “limited use,” Presley said the agriplex could host trade shows, indoor sports and horse shows, as well as conventions.
Comox director Barbara Price questioned if other locations have been considered, bearing in mind the grounds were created for agricultural purposes.
“This is quite a big footprint,” said Price, noting a convention would require thousands of parking stalls.
Fellow Comox director Ken Grant questioned if the Valley contains enough accommodation for convention visitors — a problem experienced in Nanaimo. Presley feels a facility such as the agriplex could help the problem.
“If we went ahead with this project, it may be enough support for other hotels or existing hotels to expand,” Presley said.
The agriplex would be partly located on Stonehenge Farm — a 3.38 hectare riding academy — which the CVRD has purchased. The property is within the Agricultural Land Reserve, and portions are within the floodplain. As such, the CVRD requires an updated master plan for the site.
The Farmers Institute is not the only organization hoping to construct a building on the fairgrounds. The Comox Valley Exhibition (CVEx) has secured a memo of understanding with the CVRD for an agricultural awareness centre. It would contain an indoor/outdoor stage, kitchen and office space.
“It’s desperately needed by the Valley,” said Keith Currie, a past-president on the CVEx board.