An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THOSE WHO IGNORE HISTORY are doomed to repeat it. How many times have we heard that?
It came to mind when I heard Tourism Kamloops CEO Beverley DeSantis suggest Kamloops should look at building a convention centre.
Existing facilities aren’t big enough to attract major conventions, she said.
Here we go again, I said to myself. DeSantis is a recent arrival in Kamloops so she doesn’t know the history of convention centre talk here. She knows studies have been done in the past, and remarked, “The numbers might still hold.”
If they do, that should be the end of the discussion. Convention centres are a nice-to-have and bring a lot of people into a city but they’re notorious money pits.
The Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, for example, has gone through several renovations costing millions of dollars, and operates with a hefty subsidy.
The Vancouver Convention Centre is subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of several million dollars a year. It’s a common story.
Twenty years ago, a convention centre was all the talk in Kamloops but a number of proposals based on partnerships between private developers and the City didn’t make it past the concept stage.
The issue came up briefly during last year’s civic by-election but didn’t make any waves then, either. Right now, with other public facilities to think about, it’s not on anyone’s radar.
Stuart Wood School needs to be repurposed for an as-yet unknown use, and City council has approved $200,000 just to clean up the property. The Big Thing, though, is the question of a performing arts centre.
A PAC has got to be the next civic facility. So, shall we just forgive de Santis because she’s new in town, pat her on the head and say thanks, but no thanks?
Well, what if a convention centre was combined with a performing arts centre?
It would make some sense, wouldn’t it? Convention centres need theatres, after all. Put them together with meeting rooms and we’ve got the Kamloops Arts and Events Centre, and it might actually make money.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.