By Nicole Fitzgerald
The Xavier Rudd concert slated for Dec. 4 at the Telus Conference Centre was cancelled last week after Tourism Whistler officials and concert producers hit a stalemate in contract negotiations — leaving at least 649 people who bought tickets heading south to catch the Rudd concert in Vancouver.
Concert organizers from House of Blues and Upstream Entertainment are furious while Tourism Whistler officials stand firmly behind conference centre policies.
“Upstream and House of Blues will never do a show there again,” said Derek Arrowsmith of Upstream Entertainment. “There is not a venue in the world that asks for a $25,000 damage deposit.”
“From our perspective, we invested $12 million into renovation of the building,” said Diane Mombourquette, vice president of Tourism Whistler finance and operations. “We take responsibility as stewards to protect (our assets) on behalf of our membership.”
The policies in contention include the demand for a $25,000 money order as a damage deposit and $5 million in liability insurance. When the conference centre was renovated in 2003, these new policies were introduced.
Upstream found different policies when they hosted concerts in Whistler more than five years ago, before the conference centre renovations. The String Cheese Incident, Blackalicious and Michael Franti were only a few of the big-name acts Upstream brought to Whistler.
When House of Blues and Upstream Entertainment decided to host the Xavier Rudd show, they were unaware of the policy changes.
The policy changes were brought to their attention by mid-July, according to Tourism Whistler, and mid-August, according to Upstream.
Arrowsmith said the two promotion companies continued to carry on with advertising and ticket sales for the concert because they felt a reasonable solution could be met.
He said Tourism Whistler’s policies with regard to renting the conference centre are “unheard of” in Canadian industry standards.
He said $1 million liability insurance is the industry standard and never in his career has he been faced with demands for a damage deposit. He cited the 3,000-seat Orpheum Theatre venue, the space where Rudd will perform in Vancouver, as an example. Liability insurance required is $1 million and no damage deposit is needed. Arrowsmith said increasing the promoters’ insurance coverage from $1 million to $5 million would have cost an additional $8,000.
Other venues to host the concert were sought, including the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. However, Arrowsmith said even if the concert sold out, the companies would be in the hole $12,000. He added he bares the Chateau no ill will. He said he understands that the space is not designed to host concerts.
Mombourquette said concerts at the conference centre are “outside normal business.” The space is usually used for business conferences, retail fairs, weddings, craft shows and special events.
“It is not designed as a concert venue,” she said. “The mandate of the sales team is to go after group business that fills as many member hotels (as possible). We hesitate booking concerts because it takes time to be put up and tear down… It could potentially tie up time to other groups. A concert is not necessarily the maximum use for it.”
When asked what Tourism Whistler’s stance was on concerts in Whistler, Mombourquette talked about the village animation-street entertainment program hosted in the summer as well as concerts hosted on the mountain.
“We want to focus on our unique aspects,” she said of hosting outdoor concerts, adding a concert at the conference centre was an experience that could easily be found elsewhere, such as in Vancouver.
Mombourquette said all concerts and parties at the conference centre must adhere to the $25,000 damage deposit.
“It is generally refundable the next day after our team goes through to determine if any damage has occurred,” she said. “We don’t think it’s unreasonable to take that precaution to make sure our building remains in state.”
“We are paying $4,500 for rent,” he said. “We are paying for security. We are bringing up all the staging and lighting. We are bringing in 1,200 people on a Monday night. We are bringing the show on a silver platter. We were allowing (the conference centre) to sell booze and food, and this is how they treat us... We’ve spent $2,000 in advertising… and other expenses and now it’s all down the toilet because a venue in Whistler is f***ing dreaming.”
As a result, Rudd fans are left to wait for spring and the hope he will return for another performance at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival as part of the outdoor mainstage program.