By MEL ROTHENBURGER
The number of contending sites for a new performing arts centre is back to three, with Thompson Rivers University now in the running.
While TRU’s interest is still in the feeling-out stage, Mayor Peter Milobar says it will be considered by consultants at least in preliminary research into potential sites.
The other two known candidates are the Kamloops Daily News building on Seymour Street, now owned by the City, and a proposal by the Hotel 540 to construct an attachment to the east end of the hotel on Victoria Street.
The Henry Grube Education Centre property on the North Shore has been ruled out.
“It’s not something that’s a surprise, I guess,” Milobar told A.M. News Wednesday night of the TRU idea, but he said the option faces “some hurdles” due to the lack of public amenities like restaurants in the immediate area.
He said a consultants’ study, expected to get underway in fall, will look at the three possible locations and shortlist them to two.
The newest entry was broached by TRU Community Trust chair Frank Quinn, who said there are pros and cons to locating a performing arts centre on campus.
“What we said was let’s at least get TRU in the game.”
TRUCT is an arm’s-length corporate body established in 2011 to look at potential uses for TRU land considered surplus to academic needs and to develop a plan for an integrated “university village” that would marry commercial and educational uses.
Quinn said the trust operates independently from the university’s board of governors, and its own board members are prohibited from being involved in any future developments at TRU. It includes five TRU directors and six external members.
Hotels and retail shopping may be part of the village concept so people can “live, work and play” on campus. The parking lot area near the Clock Tower Alumni Theatre might be one possible location for the performing arts theatre, he said.
“When the issue of the arts centre came up, a couple of people said we should look at it,” Quinn said Wednesday.
“First of all we’re not sure if it works with our plan,” he said. “Downtown might be better.”
There’s a precedent for the joint approach — the City built the Tournament Capital Centre at TRU in a joint venture in 2005.
While there might be mutual advantages to a similar partnership on an arts theatre — such as land costs and use by students — there are also disadvantages such as the restaurant issue.
Some councillors agree that TRU is too far from other amenities.
“It would take some persuading to get me to think that would be the best location,” said Coun. Donovan Cavers.
Coun. Tina Lange is adamant the arts theatre needs to be located downtown, and she would only support TRU if the two downtown options are ruled out.
She said residents have been clear the theatre needs to be near hotels and restaurants, and the City’s strategy is to build major new amenities in the city centre.
“We’ve said we would do our best to keep the arts downtown,” said Lange. “Keeping the downtown strong is absolutely paramount.”
Lange said the downtown appears healthy on the surface but that health is tenuous — it’s a high tax area and there are a lot of empty properties. The possible move of Lake City Casino to a new location at the former Rona building in Aberdeen will take clientele away from downtown, so a new performing arts centre would replace some of that loss, said Lange.
People who attend theatre events want services nearby, she said. “The best experience is if they can walk to other amenities. When you come downtown you can see a side of Kamloops that is very unique.”
Quinn understands those concerns.
“It’s very loosey goosey for us,” said Quinn. “We just ask to be considered as potentially one of them (sites). We’ll see.”