By MEL ROTHENBURGER
A somewhat scaled-down — in terms of cost — but ambitious proposal for a $70-million performing arts centre was presented to Kamloops City council today (Jan. 8, 2019) by businessman Ron Fawcett.
Council responded by approving consideration of a new PAC in its strategic plan, though many details — including cost to the taxpayers — have yet to be worked out.
Financing of the concept is already off to a good start, however. Fawcett and his wife Rae pledged to donate the equivalent of $8-10 million in the form of the 29,000 sq. ft. Telus Annex building — including the needed renovations — next door to the Kamloops Daily News property at 4th and Seymour.
The annex would become the new operating centre for the Kamloops Symphony and Western Canada Theatre. WCT would vacate the Pavilion Theatre as part of the re-alignment. Fawcett called acquisition of the annex “a game changer.”
It would also include the KSO music school, rehearsal halls, meeting spaces and a storage facility for the Kamloops Art Gallery.
A new building on the old KDN land would include three theatres, one of them seating 1,200, a second 450 and the third 75-100. There would be a spacious lobby, a café and an outdoor plaza.
Unlike the $91-million plan that failed at referendum in 2015, the new proposal calls for only a 70-space underground parkade in the first phase unless the City decides to add to it.
Fawcett told council and the overflow crowd in the public gallery (two other meeting rooms had to be opened up and linked to his presentation via video) he sees the PAC as a catalyst for new development in the downtown core.
Using a phrase that promises to become part of the vocabulary of the project’s supporters, he said it offers “the right price, in the right location, at the right time.”
Asked at a media conference on the front steps of City Hall after his presentation how much he expects taxpayers would have to contribute, Fawcett said the business plan is for City council to figure out.
“It’s up to them now.”
It’s expected the City will go after federal and provincial funding to reduce the cost to local ratepayers.
The plan will have to go through public input, a detailed financing plan, and final design before it gets to the construction stage.
He predicted it will be two to three years before the 103,000 sq. ft. facility can become a reality. Fawcett said he’s been working on the concept for a year and a half, consulting with arts groups and hiring professionals experienced in theatre design to put it together.
One immediate question is parking. Coun. Mike O’Reilly asked if street parking for PAC events might end up competing with Blazers games. Fawcett replied that, on some nights, parking downtown could get “interesting.”
Coun. Cathy Sinclair, long a proponent of the arts, remarked that Fawcett’s presentation put a lump in her throat.
Fellow councilor Dieter Dudy said a new PAC would take Kamloops beyond its current status as Canada’s Tournament Capital Centre. “The arts are what define us as a community.”
Mayor Ken Christian called the size of the crowd that turned out in support of the concept “unprecedented.”