Efforts to attract the RCMP Musical Ride to Nanaimo have been unseated due to a lack of bleachers, say organizers.
It’s an event that only passes through every four years, as the RCMP rotates the ride through different provinces each year. The family friendly event attracts thousands across the country, offering spectators the majesty of 32 mounted police officers and their horses performing in unison.
Nanaimo successfully played host to the ride in 2009, when the event was put on by the Vancouver Island Exhibition.
In September, the Rotary Club of Lantzville put in a bid to host the ride on the equestrian grounds at Beban Park, which are jointly leased by the Nanaimo Equestrian Association and VIEX.
Following the application process and a site assessment, the bid was deemed successful. Lantzville Rotary had secured enough bleachers for 600 seats from the City of Nanaimo, and began to seek out the additional 400 required.
To make the ride economically feasible, the Rotary needed to secure about 1,000 seats, although closer to 1,200 would have been ideal, said club president Joy Cameron.
“We always assumed that we would be able to secure the bleachers because we knew the ride had happened in 2009,” she said. “We never even thought it was an issue.”
On Feb. 12, Cameron said the club received a letter from the VIEX stating that the bleachers would not be ready for use in time for the musical ride, which was planned for Aug. 11.
The club looked into other alternatives, such as trucking in seating from neighbouring facilities, but doing so would have been too expensive and driven up the cost of the event.
“Transporting bleachers on highways does not make sense,” Cameron said. “You have to block off the highway and hire trucks and all that kind of stuff.”
With a musical ride community briefing being planned for March 9, Lantzville Rotary needed to provide a final answer to the RCMP, and ultimately the bid was withdrawn.
Cameron added that in addition to the ride, Nanaimo will also lose out on any economic spin-offs the ride would bring.
“We would easily have raised $10,000 [from the ride] and our money goes back into things like the Child Development Centre and Nanaimo Community Hospice,” she said.
In an official statement released Saturday, the VIEX stated they ‘wholeheartedly supported the endeavor’ but that the musical ride would compromise their ability to prepare for the VIEX, which is in its 119th year and takes place Aug. 16-18.
Lynne Haley, VIEX president, said the bleachers in question may not even be ready in time for their event, as they are wooden and will need refurbishing.
“Four years ago, those bleachers were in bad shape, and there was a liability issue for us when we hosted the musical ride. Spring forward four years and you can only imagine the condition they’re in now.
“If we have to get them ready, we need to get them ready for a fair of 30,000 people.”
The news is disappointing for Lesley Coultish, president of the equestrian association, who contributed to the bid by offering to provide feed and care for the horses during their overnight stay on the grounds.
“This event failed because Nanaimo doesn’t have sufficient seating for any kind of larger event,” she said. “From our perspective, it would have been nice if VIEX had said yes, but they were under no obligation to let anyone but themselves use those bleachers, and that presents a problem for anybody wanting to organize a bigger outdoor event.”
Cameron said the experience was a learning experience for Rotary.
“We learned a lot about the different people in the community that have things to offer and how we might better approach it if we were try again four years from now,” she said. “In 2016, we need to have people thinking in the community about trying to bring this to Nanaimo.”
Next year, Nanaimo will host the B.C. Summer Games, with the equestrian portion being held at the Beban Park grounds. Bearing that in mind, the equestrian association is now looking to raise money for its own set of bleachers, and is hoping to partner up with other organizations to make it happen, Coultish said.