The success of the city’s newest convention centre put everyone through the paces this weekend.
The CE Centre, located near the Ottawa Airport, had an estimated 7,000 people go through it Friday, the first of three days of a lululemon warehouse sale and a Home Renovations Show.
That was the good part.
The not-so-good was the traffic the events created, causing backups on Uplands Dr. all the way to Hunt Club Rd. during the morning and afternoon rush hours Friday, adding congestion to an already jam-packed east-west corridor.
CE Centre general manager Josh Zaret was on the defensive Saturday when asked whether the battered two-lane road leading to the facility is being overwhelmed.
“People were waiting about 10 minutes on Uplands, so we put our plan in place and right after that, everybody started coming on the Airport Parkway, and there were no traffic issues,” said Zaret.
The centre has 2,000 parking spaces, and overflow parking on Uplands Dr. with a shuttle bus.
The centre, boasting 220,000 sq. ft. of floor space, with four exhibit halls, meeting rooms, and banquet facilities, is touted to be a huge tourism draw for trade shows.
It’s privately owned, but leases the land from the Ottawa Airport Authority.
Zaret said he isn’t concerned about affecting traffic flow to and from the airport.
“We ran two huge events this weekend and we didn’t even have to use the overflow lot, so clearly, it’s not an issue at all,” he said.
Airport Authority spokeswoman Krista Kealey also said she has “no concern whatsoever,” about a backlog of cars.
“I went out myself (Friday),” she said. “I had smooth sailing every single time.”
Kealey said she hasn’t heard any customer complaints, and if there are any, “it’s certainly not been brought to my attention.”
But she was quick to say, “it’s certainly something that we would want to watch carefully.”
While Friday saw hardcore shoppers lining up at 3 a.m., the scene was anything but chaotic Saturday.
It took “probably 10, 15 minutes” to get in, said Carolyn Courtney from Orleans.
Courtney brought her daughter, Allison, 16, who estimates saving $100 on clothes.
They weren’t oblivious to the traffic snarls.
“I’m going to the airport three weeks from today,” said Allison. “There better not be a lululemon sale because I would miss it, and I would miss my flight, so that would just be bad.”
Next weekend will be another traffic test when the Ottawa Wedding Show sets up camp Saturday and Sunday.