EDITORIAL – Cheapo version of Performing Arts Centre won’t cut it

Hopes for a new performing arts centre need a broad-based coalition that believes in it as a place for all, and believes strongly enough not to accept some scaled-down Cheapo, bargain-basement, cut-rate shadow of the original vision like some people are talking about

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

DID YOU SEE Million Dollar Quartet at the Sagebrush Theatre last week?

If you didn’t, you missed a great show. Everybody is still talking about it. It’s based on an actual December day in 1956 when Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins got together at Sun Records in Memphis for a jam session.

The play is a couple of hours of rocking music with a good story line that has people describing it as “amazing” and “fantastic.” Young people clearly enjoyed it just as much as those of my generation.

This production could have sold out audiences twice the size of the Sagebrush Theatre. It and others like it put the lie to those who insist that a new performing arts centre is for snobs, that most of the public would never use it.

Whether it’s Western Canada Theatre, which produced Million Dollar Quartet, or the Kamloops Symphony, with its highly popular Jeans ‘n Classics concerts, its Christmas with the KSO and upcoming Symphonic Rock, local arts groups have come to realize that the arts have to be for everybody.

This epiphany isn’t recent — it came almost 15 years ago and it wasn’t by accident. The City, which heavily subsidizes such groups, began insisting that they better start putting bums in seats instead of focusing too much on Shakespeare and Mozart.

Originally envisaged as a Kamloops Arts and Heritage Centre, a performing arts centre has been the cornerstone of the City’s consultation-driven cultural strategic plan since 2003.

It’s also identified in the City’s current overall strategic plan that comes due for renewal in 2018.

But it will never succeed if it’s left up to City Hall, or to the arts community. It needs a broad-based coalition that believes in it as a place for all, and believes strongly enough not to accept some scaled-down Cheapo, bargain-basement, cut-rate shadow of the original vision like some people are talking about.

This is not a job for the timid. It’s a time for a bold new vision, not a half-hearted one.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear twice daily Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6311 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

9 Comments on EDITORIAL – Cheapo version of Performing Arts Centre won’t cut it

  1. Cindy Ross Friedman // October 27, 2017 at 12:12 AM // Reply

    I hear those of you concerned about putting tax dollars in (I am as frugle as they come), and so also agree other groups need to contribute money BUT City infrastructure dollars, to my knowledge, have been socked away and earmarked for this particular project, plus large generous donations are in place. The key is that we are a hub city and have failed to capitalize on it. Major highways run through here as well as rail. In that way, we are like none of my examples and therein lies the huge potential. It’s not “build it and they will come” but rather “lookin’ for a place to happen”.

    • Have you read Glen Cairns comment below ? This is the future of a PAC in Kamloops. An anchor around the taxpayers neck as far as I can see.

  2. Although I agree with you Mel, the flavour of some of the comments here still rebounds around our community, because of how poorly the proposal for a PAC went last time. People have a very bad taste in their mouth still at the mention of the letters P. A. and C. Time is needed to let the negative kneejerk reaction calm down before suggesting such a folly again, or failure would be imminent.

    I do agree that halving the size of the project is not the answer. We need a bigger room to replace the Sagebrush which in the end … is a school auditorium. A smaller room would still mean that touring acts (plays and music) will still bypass Kamloops as it would not be financially viable for them to stop and set up for a night.

    Heres what I think.
    Hang onto the parking lot that once was the daily news. Do not let council sell it to developers. Just sit on it as a flat parking lot for a few more years. When the ‘PAC bad taste in the mouth’ has subsided, as time will surely allow, then commit to a range of proposals for a PAC (not just one ‘there is no plan B’), with a well put together financial plan, and let the conversation start fresh.

    The Arts, Music and tour concert going community (which is most of us), will all benefit from a non scaled back PAC. As well as putting bums in the seats, we need more seats to put the bums into.

    But today? All we would build now would be a scaled back version, which would benefit no one in the long run.

  3. Sorry, but this ” build it, and they will come ” doesn’t work. Until the ” arts ” community is willing to have some skin in the game, and put their money where their mouth is, this will be a no go. There is no need for the taxpayer to be on the hook for many millions of dollars a PAC will require. If they are so sure that a PAC will make major profits, then start fund raising, and borrowing to make it happen. Anything that involves the city using tax dollars to be built, and survive is just a money sink hole waiting to happen.

    • Ya, and the sports community in town put ‘skin in the game’ before the plethora of sports fields and athletic services were built by the City? A PAC has been proven to be able to earn the money needed for operational overhead and maintenance, simply through ticket sales. Thats something that will never be achievable for all the soccer and baseball fields. And your taxes paid to build them.

  4. The Cleland Theatre in Penticton seats about 450. Originally designed to seat 750, the City scaled back on costs and only the lower portion of the auditorium got built. It houses touring acts and a kids series. Local arts groups cannot afford to use it. The $93 Million, 5,000 seat South Okanagan Events Centre hosts the local hockey team, The Vees, and about a dozen mostly country and western concerts per year at an annual operating loss of about $1.5 million, paid for by local tax payers. The beautiful new theatre in Oliver has just under 500 seats. It is part of the High School, was paid for by the Town of Oliver and then a subsequent referendum had to be held to approve a tax increase in the Regional District to provide an annual operating subsidy of $100,000. This pays for a manager and janitorial services. It’s a lovely building which has the usual challenges of shared use facilities – school use for classes, plays and school assemblies versus time for theatre rehearsal and performances versus time for symphony and music series rehearsals and performances. These buildings are expensive to build, expensive to maintain and expensive to operate, and they don’t provide the specialized architectural or equipment needs of specialized undertakings like theatre and music. We need a bold vision. Yes. I would respectfully suggest that a one size fits all building which sucks both tax and entertainment dollars out of the community and puts them on the corporate tour buses which are leaving town before the last concert patrons have exited the building is not the way to go. A number of smaller, specialized community based venues spread through various neighbourhoods in the city might be a much more effective way to go; a theatre downtown, a concert hall in Tranquille village, neighbourhood studios is Westsyde, Valleyview, Brocklehurst. Venues for music built to suit music making. Venues for theatre built to suit theatre making.

  5. Ken McClelland // October 26, 2017 at 7:59 AM // Reply

    Agree we need to go all in. I don’t know that we’ll make a bunch of money at it, however if we can get on the big-act tour circuit, we may have more folks from Kamloops spending their discretionary entertainment dollars at local businesses, restaurants etc and our own PAC instead of in that neighboring city to the southeast with the same first letter in its name…..

  6. I would take the music to the people…with Christmas coming up the music could be taken to the malls. A coordinated effort of small groups of musicians playing a bit of everything…allegro, vivace, con gusto…make people hooked on the melodies and the positive feelings associated with music. And then transfer it to the grander scale of the Sagebrush. The point I am trying to make is more of the general public need to appreciate and support a PAC not just a relatively small elite.
    The ground work needs to swiftly begin because it will take a bit of time and we can’t wait any longer.

  7. Cindy Ross Friedman // October 26, 2017 at 5:24 AM // Reply

    Go big or go home. I have just been at the Confederation Performing Arts Centre in little Charlottetown (which no one thought could or should be done at the time), and it is huge, marvellous, and successful with an art gallery, art studios, and giant theatre. You know, even Penticton and Oliver have nicer centres than we do. They can bring in REVENUE. Ditto the huge Art Gallery/Museum in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Let’s get those Rocky Mountaineer tourists and give them something to do…there is so much potential. Heck, have a big display showcasing mining and railroading. It is all intetesting. We will get big acts heading from Calgary to Vancouver. And we can still showcase our local artists (Charlottetown does it with a companion theatre across the street). People: we won’t lose money, we will make money and get Kamloops on the major art scene map.

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