The organizer of the Great Canadian Wellness Expo is fuming after he was forced to cancel next week’s Brandon show due to unfinished renovations at the Keystone Centre.
Show manager Rick Thiessen said he was given less than two weeks notice from the Keystone that the convention hall would not be available.
“I got a call that said, ‘unbeknownst to the sales representative, the construction was way more in depth in that hall than they originally anticipated, and the hall was no longer usable,’” Thiessen said.
Thiessen was offered the Manitoba Room, but he said it wouldn’t be suitable for the expo, which focuses on health and wellness and requires a more “intimate” setting.
The show focuses on providing alternatives for people to take a proactive approach to their health, rather than reactive, bringing in experts on mental, physical, spiritual and nutritional health, among others.
“The Manitoba Room is like five times the size of the room that we need, it’s a raw concrete building with 30-foot ceilings,” Thiessen said. “Plus it’s two weeks before the show and it meant having to change all the floor plans, redesign everything.”
Thiessen said he expected nearly 50 vendors for the Brandon expo, which was to take place Feb. 22-24. He is now looking at having to return deposits to 20-25 companies, who paid between $400-$700 to be a part of the show.
“There’s a number of vendors that I’m able to transfer their deposits over to other shows because they travel with me,” he said.
Thiessen said he is out nearly $10,000.
“I’ve spent most of it on producing the show already,” he said. “I’m holding (the Keystone Centre) accountable for this and I want my money back. I want the money for all the losses to all the people that I have to pay back.”
Some vendors were to planning to come from as far away as Florida, and others from across Canada.
“Now they’ve had to reschedule all of their plans,” he said. “Not only are they out their initial deposit, which I have to give back, but they’re also out a revenue-generating week … because they haven’t booked anything else for this timeframe and it’s too late in the season to book a last-minute show.”
This would have been the third Brandon Wellness Expo, but Thiessen has been producing the expos in cities across Canada for 19 years. Other shows are held in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina and Kelowna.
Thiessen was notified two months ago that the venue would be under renovations, but was told it would still be usable and was offered a good deal. The room rate was originally $1,200 per day and it was dropped to $600 per day.
“They promised it would be clean and it would be nice,” Thiessen said.
Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson said construction didn’t proceed as they had hoped. After a recent update from the contractor, Thomson said they had to notify Thiessen of the unfortunate news.
“We’re always disappointed whenever we undertake activities that throws a screw into an event… we don’t want that to ever happen,” he said. “We did try to make another (room) available for him, but he didn’t like it.”
The Keystone Centre has also offered Thiessen free rent on another room if he wants to come back when renovations are done.
Thiessen said he won’t be offering a show in Brandon in 2013, but isn’t ruling out future years.
Renovations in the convention hall include putting in a wall divider and adding more stalls to the washrooms.
It’s part of a major renovation at the Keystone Centre, which is being funded in a three-way, $3.3-million agreement between the federal, provincial and municipal governments. The deadline for completion is March 31.
“We’re under a really tight timeline, so we’re just trying to do the best we can and try not to have any impact on our customers,” Thomson said. “It didn’t proceed like we had hoped.”
Thomson said the goal is to have construction complete by the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, which is held at the end of March.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 16, 2013