The City of Nanaimo can look forward to progress reports, of sorts, on the Ocean Discovery Centre as the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association continues work on the project.
City council, at its meeting Monday night, formally approved $65,000 in funding to help the association pay for two feasibility studies and help cover other current costs.
City councillors had recommended the expenditure at a finance and audit committee meeting last month.
Coun. Bill Bestwick said he puts a lot of trust and faith in the Ocean Discovery Centre proponents.
“In my opinion, this is a very small price to pay for the amount of energy and time and effort and resources that is being invested into this by volunteers – I don’t think we can forget that – to bring Nanaimo a first-class facility and venue on our gorgeous waterfront and that will, in turn, deliver more growth and more building and more opportunity,” he said.
Coun. Ian Thorpe called the $65,000 an investment in the city.
“Council regularly provides incentives to developers because we feel their projects bring value to the city; we provide grants to non-profit groups because they provide value to the city and our citizens,” Thorpe said. “And I personally am excited about this project and I can see potential for it bringing great value to our city in terms of a major tourist attraction.”
Coun. Jerry Hong motioned the amendment that the City of Nanaimo receive copies of the studies it’s helping to fund.
“We should have access, unfettered access to the report, not a dummied-down version of it,” he said.
Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association nodded their agreement with Hong’s amendment at Monday’s meeting and the next day, Tim Tessier, association vice-president, said not only is his group “absolutely in favour” of providing those reports, but it’s planning to start up an increased “social media and media” presence to share information about the project.
“It’s going to be full disclosure,” he said. “The reporting that we’re doing and the feasibility studies will be used not only by ourselves, but [by] other group to attract tourism to Nanaimo.”
Tessier talked about several ideas for the centre, mentioning virtual reality displays, a 360-degree video screen and rides.
“This is not a museum and this is certainly not an aquarium,” he said. “This is an experience. We’re going to be introducing some attractions and [visitors will] experience rides that you would only see in places like Disneyland. The comparable of flying over Canada, but doing it under the sea.”
Tessier said one feasibility study will look at the market and identify who will come to Nanaimo and the Ocean Discovery Centre, how long they will stay in the city and how much they will spend during their visits. He said another study will look at updated potential construction costs once some of the new design ideas are considered.
Tessier said his group wouldn’t be commissioning the studies if it didn’t have some expectation that it’s on the right track.
“We’ve really focused on our due diligence to ensure that the facility that we envision building would be what people would want to come and see,” he said.
According to the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association website, the centre could cost $50 million to build.
The only councillor to oppose the $65,000 expenditure was Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, who was concerned that the group was going against a previous assurance that no City of Nanaimo tax dollars would be required for the project.