You can forgive skeptics who think the City of Estevan always intended to have its Visitor Information Centre remain open throughout the year.
After all, why spend all that time relocating tourism services from the log cabin-style structure west of the city, to the former concession area at the Estevan Leisure Centre, if they were going to shut it down in September?
And why spend money on renovating the former concession area at the Estevan Leisure Centre if it was destined to become a visitor centre for just three months?
But the bottom line is shifting tourism operations to the leisure centre was the right move, since it was the best option for a location, and it should remain open throughout the year.
If you’re going to have a visitor information centre in the leisure centre, then it has to be open in the fall and winter months, because some of the busiest weekends in the leisure centre during the year are between Labour Day and Easter.
Another benefit of hockey season.
You’re going to have game nights for the Power Dodge Estevan Bruins and minor hockey teams. You have several tournaments for minor hockey throughout the winter months, when you’ll have lots of activity in the leisure centre, and you’ll have the Estevan Strippers tournament in the spring, which brings hundreds of visitors to the community.
And you’ll also have special events such as the John Mellencamp concert in October and the Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling in December that will be bringing people to the community.
These are all times for a Visitor Information Centre to be open, rather than the traditional Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. It’s a chance for knowledgeable and personable staff to promote the community, its amenities, and its services to those who are visiting.
To be sure, it makes for a more suitable location than a log cabin off of Highway 39. And we have more important areas to spend taxpayer dollars than diminishing returns.
One unanswered question regarding the visitor centre being open year-round revolves around summer students. The summer students have played an important role in the information centre’s operations for years, and it’s a great experience for young people.
Will there still be a place for summer students once the centre is staffed by permanent part-time employees?
This might also be time for the city to consider a name change for the visitor information centre. It implies that it is a location for those who are from out-of-town.
Yet the city is proudly claiming that it has seen an increase in the number of people from inside the community who are stopping by, although those numbers have not been released.
Most local residents who drop by the centre wouldn’t consider themselves “visitors.” We consider ourselves to be proud residents of this city. Perhaps community information centre would be a more fitting label.
The city deserves credit for the work it has done to promote the amenities in the Estevan area. The visitor information centre’s shift in location, combined with it remaining open year-round, appears to be beneficial.
The Experience Estevan campaign that profiles tourism attractions in the community has been an excellent addition during the past couple of years. The use of various types of media provides residents and potential tourists alike a look at what Estevan has to offer.
It represents a step forward. We’ll see where the city goes from here.