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EDITORIAL – What about a Kamloops arts and convention centre?

Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. (Image: PT&CC)

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 mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6186 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca 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 ArmchairMayor.ca 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.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – What about a Kamloops arts and convention centre?

  1. Glen Cairns // October 4, 2018 at 3:23 PM // Reply

    Why do we keep going back to this PAC idea? They are expensive to build, expensive to operate and expensive to maintain and repair. Local artists and arts groups are unable to afford to either rehearse or perform in them, and they suck entertainment dollars out of the community. We already have the Sagebrush and The Sandman Centre. If Westerm Canada Theatre wanted its own, purpose built facility, which they would own and operate I could get behind that, but not another bank of city owned plush seats in a public building with beige carpets and self flushing toilets. In addition to The Sagebrush, we also have The Pavilion, the 700 seat gem up at The Coast Hotel and the extraordinarily beautiful restored Rex on Seymour Street. Every High School in the city has some sort of small performance space – probably the best shows in the city happen annually with the students at Westsyde in their lovely little black box. TRU has a beautiful black box theatre. The only thing that the city is missing missing is a 150 seat, flexible black box theatre to complement the funky, but warm and welcoming Stage House on Tranquille. Kamloops is not really short of performance spaces – I know that because I’m a professional theatre artist who makes his home in the city. I just did a performance of my show, Spitting Slag in the lovely hall of the downtown United Church. The facility was lovely and the church staff and members were gracious hosts. Please, let’s put this PAC idea to bed for another 50 years and invest scarce public dollars in something more useful. Honestly, not having a PAC won’t make a bit of difference in the lives of the artists who call Kamloops home. Glen Cairns, Artistic Director, The Other Theatre Company, Kamloops.

  2. A performing Arts Centre in Kamloops is something our community needs. What we don’t need is an increase in taxes to cover overhead costs or capital expense. What we don’t need is a swanky high end champagne and shrimp cocktails kind of centre. There are so many ways to fund a big project like this. Writing for grants from all level of govt, finding generous philanthropists that support the arts. Royal Inland Hospital Foundation is great at fundraising and gives us a good model to follow. Maybe a big private donor like Jimmy Pattison supports the arts as well as health care, he just gave the largest private donation ever to the St Paul’s Hospital – perhaps he would consider supporting a performing arts centre too. Pattison Performing Arts Centre anyone? Perhaps there is a collective of entertainers that would like to support Kamloops in its endeavors. We need a PAC, but, what we don’t need is it being funded with an increase in taxation, it must be able to make money, must be able to be utilized by many groups in the community and not be a huge underutilized convention center money pit. It is time Kamloops, whether we consider turning a parking lot into an arts paradise, or consider the North Shore Henry Grube site or some other site, we need a performing arts center. I like hot potatoes, let me at it!!

  3. Why not champion the cause Mel? Prepare the business case (but remember to include the humanitarian trade-offs), don’t forget the parking lot and make sure to include contingencies (because something will be overlooked and it will end up costing millions to fix, either during or a little later after completion). Also make sure to prepare a nice write-up calling it “sustainable”…because you know…if you write it people will believe it.
    On another note, did you know that Kamloops is becoming a mountain bike destination in its own right? People from all over come here, spending money in the process, to ride on trail mostly built by volunteers enthusiasts?
    Those guy “rocks”!

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