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Church unhappy with Copps
'Inadequate' conditions citedBy Peter Van Harten
The Hamilton Spectator(Mar 3, 2006)
The Jehovah's Witnesses are warning they're unhappy with the "inadequate" conditions at Copps Coliseum.
And that's alarming Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. as it prepares to negotiate a new five-year deal with a customer that has brought millions of dollars in business to the city.
In addition, the city's own public works staff has decided not to hold its 2006 staff Christmas party at the city's convention centre because of the extra costs of parking.
The deteriorating condition at Copps and the loss of money-generating functions and events have become a major concern for HECFI.
The city-owned complex of Copps, Hamilton Place and the convention centre had a $600,000 deficit last year. Officials are seeking a $2.6 million subsidy this year - a 5.1 per cent increase at a time when the city is limiting subsidies to 3 per cent.
In a letter to HECFI, Jehovah's Witnesses spokesmen say they have "reservations" about holding more conventions at Copps because of leaking pipes and broken seats. They point to a first aid room that can't be used because of mould and repair problems. And they note having to buy and put aluminum plates over stair floor openings on mobile seating.
Although assured some of the problems have been, and are being, dealt with, HECFI board members have reacted with alarm to the potential loss of Watch Tower conventions and to the issue of parking.
The Jehovah's Witnesses bring 11,000 to 15,000 members to Copps for three-day conventions, usually twice and sometimes three times a year.
Since 1986, the church has held 35 three-day events at Copps.
"We bring in millions (of dollars) to the city," said Paul Kikot, a convention negotiator with Jehovah's Witnesses.
Copps is not just an area, "it's our place of worship" said Kikot, who added that's why volunteers diligently clean the seats, washrooms and other parts of Copps at their conventions.
He stressed the Watch Tower Bible Society is very pleased with its reception each year at Copps and the efforts of its staff "whose hands are tied, to an extent. We hope to continue to come."
David Adames, Tourism Hamilton CEO, says the Jehovah's Witnesses are an "important" convention customer with a substantial impact on the city's economy.
"Every time they come, they fill up a number of hotels and restaurants," he said.
Anna Marie DiPronio, one of the organizers of the Hamilton public works staff Christmas party, said they considered holding the 2006 event and meal at the city convention centre "because we are all under the same umbrella and should work as a team."
But with the 225 to 250 guests already being charged $25 each to attend, the additional parking authority charges were too much to bear. "It's unfortunate," she said.
Mayor Larry Di Ianni, a member of the HECFI board, has told HECFI staff that board members need to be regularly updated on concerns raised by clients and the progress of any repairs. And he's concerned that charges at the Hamilton parking authority garage are a "deal breaker" for attracting functions.
Duncan Gillespie, the chief executive officer at HECFI, says maintenance problems are being dealt with. But he agreed there is no denying the upgrades needed at Copps and challenges facing HECFI.