Peter Middleton, left and Ian Middleton from Absolute Classic Marine, polish their antique boats during the opening of Kelowna's new downtown pier on Friday. Edmonton-based Westcorp was picked to build the $5.1 million of infrastructure on the city's waterfront.
A bottle of champagne smashed against the pier was deemed to be too risky, so organizers went with the bell substitute.
"The sweet spot of Kelowna is right here at the Sails Plaza," said developer Phil Milroy of Westcorp, just before sounding the bell.
"To have this marina attached to it is very special indeed."
The marina has a 300-foot dock jutting out into Okanagan Lake; 78 hourly, daily and overnight boat slips for rent; a commercial pier; boat and water toys rental facility; gas bar; and plenty of room for strolling and sitting.
Considering that downtown Kelowna is ideally situated on the water and so much of the city's lifestyle and tourism hinges on the lake, it's funny that there was never a public pier.
Nearby Kelowna Yacht Club is huge, with more than 900 boat slips, but it's a club for members and has no public hourly, daily or overnight moorage.
"This is a true public facility and an iconic project," said Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray at the opening ceremony out on the dock.
"It helps make downtown absolutely unique in that both tourists and residents can pull up here on a boat and enjoy downtown, which is the epicentre of tourism where 1.5 million tourists come annually."
Even if you don't have a boat, the marina is public amenity that provides 300 feet to walk over the water, sit and gaze out over the lake and grab a bite at the food kiosks that are expected to set up there in the summer.
"The mission of Westcorp is to create great spaces and places," said Westcorp's director of development Gail Temple.
"We've done that there with a marina that changes downtown, is a pedestrian destination and increases access for boaters."
The city had the vision for a big public marina and pier, but didn't want to spend taxpayer's money building one.
So the city put the project out to bid, and Milroy's Edmonton-based Westcorp was picked to build the $5.1 million of infrastructure on the city's waterfront.
In return, Westcorp will operate the marina for the next
20 years and collect the revenues.
Westcorp also wants to build a highrise hotel nearby at the corner of Water and Mill streets.
The mayor also pointed toward 6,000-seat Prospera Place arena downtown that was built in 1999 by Vancouver developer Graham Lee as a similar win-win private-public venture.
The president of the Downtown Kelowna Association, Dallas Gray, the mayor's son, said the new marina is an incredible addition to downtown.
"It's a first class showpiece at the foot of our new Bernard Avenue," he said.
Kelowna's main street is currently getting a facelift with a three-phase revamp that includes new utilities, wider sidewalks, improved streetscapes and repaving.
After the main ceremony for 200 invited guests at noon on Friday, the marina held a public open house.
While now finished, the marina was delayed from its originally scheduled opening date of the May long weekend, and thus missed the prime summer boating season.
Therefore, an official grand opening will be held at the start of the boating season next year in May.