When the Encana Events Centre opened as part of the South Peace Community Multiplex in Dawson Creek back in the spring of 2008, it’s hard to say people could know back then just how much the facility would impact the community and the surrounding Peace Region.
As host of the 2012 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, Dawson Creek is taking centre stage in Canada Nov. 7 to 11 and the city situated at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway has the EnCana Events Centre to thank.
“I’ve been in hockey for a long time and I’ve hosted some neat Hockey Canada events, and for small towns to get [the U18s], I’d go out on a limb and say I don’t think the [older] Memorial Arena would be able to do this for us,” said Barry Reynard, chair of Hockey Canada’s hockey development council.
“What EnCana brings is a professional staff, professional marketing, ticketing and almost a mini Western Hockey League-type arena,” Reynard added. “It has everything in that arena that we could bring the event to.”
But it’s been a long road from 2008, when doors opened, to 2012 as Dawson Creek prepares to welcome the nation. The journey so far has been about building a reputation and putting the small city of 11,500 on the map for sports and entertainment.
“Over the last four years it’s all been new business,” said Ryan MacIvor, general manager of the EnCana Events Centre. “Before, everyone had to drive to Grande Prairie or onto Edmonton or Prince George to see some entertainment, but now it’s here in our backyard.
“The reality is, the reputation of the venue, and the fans, is a great one. We’ve proven that the fans want to come and want to see these acts, and when they’re here the artists are blown away by the enthusiasm. We’ve definitely built a great reputation for the venue and the fans.”
Which might be why names like Miranda Lambert, Alice Cooper, John Fogerty, Stone Temple Pilots and even the dog whisperer Cesar Millan have paid, or are about to pay, a visit to the EnCana this fall alone. The big names are coming in droves and the community is reaping the benefits.
In 2009, after only one year in operation, Tourism Dawson Creek reported that the EnCana Events Centre alone brought in $11 million and created 130 full-time-equivalent jobs. On event nights local restaurants see sales increase from 50 to over 100 per cent while having to bring in more staff. Real estate was also reported to be up in the same study as agents use the draw of the EnCana Events Centre to their advantage.
“The facility itself is a huge economic generator for businesses within Dawson Creek, whether it be restaurants or gas stations,” MacIvor said.
“The venue has improved the quality of life in the region and it provides some great amenities. I’m very pleased with where the venue’s at but also where we’re going in the future. We’re coming onto our fifth anniversary and I think there’s more to come.”
And it’s not just the big names or teams that get to use the facility.
Like any local rink, the ice can be booked at EnCana for recreational hockey games, which takes stress off of the other two arenas in town. Even the local roller derby team can use the facility for practice.
“It’s nice to have it to use for other functions that are available to the public,” said Troy Erickson, youth director at the Ark Christian Centre in Dawson Creek. “It was hard before because there was only so much ice, only so much arena time with all the different groups. With the EnCana it’s more of an advantage with another facility that’s more available.”
From rec league hockey to televised sporting events and headliner bands, the EnCana Events Centre seems to be a Swiss Army Knife facility for Dawson Creek – it does it all.
“It brings in bigger things to the community,” Erickson said. “We’ve had so many big productions come into Dawson Creek because of the facility and the quality of it.