VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Spending a hot summer’s day at the PNE, taking in the sights, food, attractions, and rides is one of Vancouver’s iconic past times. But now the event’s future is uncertain as COVID-19 cancellations will cost the organization millions.
Without the revenue coming in from the fair, Playland, and other year-round events, the Pacific National Exhibit expects to lose about $52-million in revenue this year alone.
EXCLUSIVE: It’s a Vancouver staple, but will it survive the COVID-19 pandemic? The PNE’s future may be in jeopardy as financial losses are expected to pass $52 million this year alone. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/9H1ClrE42r
— Tarnjit Parmar (@Tarnjitkparmar) May 13, 2020
President and CEO of the PNE Shelley Frost says as a non-profit, the PNE isn’t eligible to apply for loans from the government.
“There’s no question. We can’t continue to lose that kind of money in the long-term,” she tells NEWS 1130.
Since the organization is also owned by the city, Frost says there are limits to how much debt the PNE can take on, posing another challenge for loans.
In hopes of staying afloat, she says the organization will be seeking financial support from the provincial and federal governments, “or at least the eligibility to be able to participate in some of the programs that are currently available.”
“There’s no question, we’re in a tight situation. But as we’ve said before, we’ve been through a couple of World Wars, we’ve been through an economic downturn, and we’ve been through a recession. We’ve always been nimble and creative,” Frost says.
Recovery is years away
Even when restrictions start to ease, it isn’t going to be an easy road ahead for the PNE, Frost explains.
“We don’t believe that it will be a single-year recovery. It’s going to take a long time for all of the events-related organizations to get out of,” she says.
“The PNE is a very resilient and innovative organization, and we do look forward to being able to recover. But we are years away from being able to fully recover.”
Even looking into next year’s event doesn’t bring any guarantee the PNE will be able to regain its losses as it could stay in debt for five to 10 years, says Frost.
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Thousands of summer jobs at the PNE have been lost in the wake of the pandemic, and Frost says a large portion of the staff are already laid off “all in an effort to stem how deeply we get into debt.”
She adds the loss of the PNE would hit Vancouver hard after 110 years in operation, but says she’s hoping for a way to keep its doors open.
“I have to look internally to do everything we can for that to not be the case,” she says.
However, Frost remains optimistic about the future of the PNE.
“We will be back as soon as we possibly can in a healthy and safe way, and I think you can anticipate we will be leading the charge on how we can define how we can bring people back together.”