THE ARTS – New $70-million proposal for performing arts centre unveiled



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.”

About Mel Rothenburger (6923 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.

16 Comments on THE ARTS – New $70-million proposal for performing arts centre unveiled

  1. Chris Wright // January 9, 2019 at 11:13 AM // Reply

    I’m in favour of an arts centre if many of the concerns already mentioned are addressed. However, my concern is that the “shows that skip Kamloops due to no suitable venue” might continue to do so. I’m not in the business and don’t know what size venue they need but I would guess that 1200 is still too small. 2000 seats seems to be a more appropriate size. Something sizable but not big enough to rent out the coliseum. I would love somebody that is involved with promoters to chime in on this.

  2. Glen Cairns // January 8, 2019 at 9:12 PM // Reply

    So, let’s do some math… 1,200 seats in the big theatre, 450 seats in the medium theatre, 100 seats in the studio theatre. That gives us 1,750 seats per night in the new facility plus 700 seats in The Sagebrush Theatre, plus 165 seats in The Pavilion Theatre, plus 100 seats in The Stage House Theatre, plus the new 150 seat theatre proposed for Tranquille Village, plus the 700 seat theatre at The Coast Hotel. That gives Kamloops 3,565 live theatre seats available every single night of the week for the next 100 years. That’s a lot of tickets to sell, before we get to movies, hockey games, curling and nights at home with Netflix. I think what I liked best about today’s presentation at City Hall was it’s naive hopefulness in the complete absence of a business plan or market analysis to support or justify the outlay of taxpayer dollars. The other thing I found really interesting was that there was absolutely zero mention of who would actually own and operate the facility once it is built, and who would assume the cost of operating and managing The Sagebrush once it’s two key tenants depart for the new building. Will we be adding a Sagebrush Theatre Manager, Technical Director, Front of House Manager and Janitors to the City’s Parks and Recreation staff? It was a nice video, and I really do applaud the generosity and sincerity of The Fawcett family, but it’s a poorly conceived plan. Glen Cairns, Kamloops.

    • Mel Rothenburger // January 8, 2019 at 10:00 PM // Reply

      Having attended today’s presentation to council as well as the media conference afterwards, I can clarify a few things. The idea is a concept that has gone as far as preliminary drawings and an initial pledged donation valued at $10 million. The business plan will be a next step but it has plenty to be based on given the detailed plan created for the 2015 proposal. Fundraising is a question mark. Ownership and management also have yet to be determined, though the facility in the 2015 plan would have been owned by the City and managed by a not-for-profit society. Under this new scenario, WCT would continue managing Sagebrush, but would vacate the Pavilion.

    • David Johnson // January 8, 2019 at 10:33 PM // Reply

      A few details;
      – The Pavilion would no longer exist.
      – The Coast Hotel theatre actually seats just over 400 crammed in (including the balcony), and its closing this year and the room is turning into another smaller ballroom the hotel can use.
      – The Sagebrush would probably revert to the school board, they would love it back. Staffing there would be on them. The Symphony and WCT would not be there, so those positions would not be needed there, they would move to the new facility.

      Your 3,565 just turned into 2,000.

      But lets talk about the 1,500 seats we have right now the way things are, and keep in mind the huge volume of travelling shows that do not stop here because we simply dont have a big enough room to justify the cost of stopping. Others dont stop because the Sagebrush is fully booked up a year before and they simply cant get in.

      The net gain of 500 seats, would be filled by ticket buyers without really trying, but beyond that, the orientation of those seats, reconfigured to todays needs will mean more seats filled thru the calander year, more economic spinoff and all the other good stuff that comes along for the ride.

      I do agree with you on the taxpayer part, see my other comment on the importance of a proper community funding model that would not use Municipal dollars.

  3. David Johnson // January 8, 2019 at 8:49 PM // Reply

    Here’s the thing …

    Cudo’s of course to the Fawsett’s for getting this rolling, with an amazing addition of the Telus building, but the problem still remains … taxpayers (including me) dont want to pay more taxes because of this. If it went to referendum again and was attached to a tax increase, it would fail.

    Releasing responsibility to the City to take this on is problematic. The way a City works is to work on, consider, decide on and find public funding to create infrastructure. A City is not bureaucratically designed to think outside the box regarding how it gets stuff done. It has a tried and true process for project funding and management. To add to that, a bigger problem is that a great many of the federal and provincial infrastructure program funds that could be accessed to do this, are simply not made available to municipalities. Ineligible.

    What I did not hear announced today; “A grassroots performing arts committee or board has been founded and non-profit society certified to begin the work regarding the accessing of corporate, private and governmental funds to complete the project.”
    This would be a critical first step.

    Thats exactly what Nanaimo did in the 80’s, no capital costs from the city for their Port Theatre. A society accessed Federal/Provincial Infrastructure Works Program dollars (and corporate and private money) and built it on city land. After construction completion, building ownership was transferred to the city (which makes sense) and the society remains as the operator, everyones happy, including tax payers.

    Kamloops City needs to be kept as third party regarding funding and project management for a project of this scope. Obviously the City has a role regarding required design, permitting, zoning and any other issues in their purview, but the project itself must be business plan and project managed by a volunteer group populated by dedicated, well informed professionals who are advised by infrastructure project professionals experienced in getting a performing arts project completed on time and on budget.

    I am concerned that simply dropping this on the City to ‘figure it out’,
    will be destined to be over budget … or it will outright fail at the polls.

    • Mel Rothenburger // January 8, 2019 at 9:05 PM // Reply

      Where did you get the idea that infrastructure funds aren’t available to local governments?

      • David Johnson // January 8, 2019 at 9:59 PM //

        Slight mistype perhaps. Municipalities can often only apply once a year for funding from a specific project, which any city will of course have on the task list to dip into for a variety of projects and city infrastructure needs every year. A non-profit also has the ability to apply once per year, for often the same program. Logic dictates the best ‘bang fer the buck’ would be to utilise these funding programs well.

        A single example Citation;

        There are actually specific Heritage Canada program funds specifically designed for community based non profit building projects, that are not available to others, including municipalities.
        I dont have a citation for that, cant find it right now, read about it a while ago.

      • Mel Rothenburger // January 8, 2019 at 10:03 PM //

        Yes, some funding programs are designed for local governments, some for not-for-profits and some for which both are eligible. For example, a new 2019 intake for the Community, Culture and Recreation program under federal-provincial infrastructure funding can be applied for either by local governments or not-for-profits.

    • The City is open to innovation and thinking outside the box should a council be made up of thinkers and innovators.

  4. Robert Bruce // January 8, 2019 at 8:27 PM // Reply

    So yer saying….71 million= 100 million before they’re finished, as it goes way over budget, and the arts folks want to add this and that, then the parking and that’ll have to be addressed.

  5. Hopefully a money collection strategy from all the arts supporters (and other direct beneficiaries) shapes up and I will be happy to donate. Some government money can be sought but only under tight scrutiny. Also I would like to see some sort of carbon-offsetting strategy to somewhat compensate for the increased carbon footprint. But for a 1,200 seat sold out performance where will the few hundreds vehicles showing up in the downtown go? Will then another “push” for a large taxpayers built parkade come our way?

  6. Linda Bentz // January 8, 2019 at 6:11 PM // Reply

    That is a lovely building with great windows! I think that building would be wasted on a downtown block. The finest spot to place a building like that would be on the Henry Grube Centre property which provides views of our Thompson Rivers confluence! Hands down!

  7. Ridiculous !!! Once again the arts community wants to break taxpayers, without putting up any of their own money.

    • David Johnson // January 8, 2019 at 7:55 PM // Reply

      Actually, the “Arts community” just put up $10 million, via this benefactor.

      • All these projects always go over budget so I say NO! yet again to a project the taxpayers have already voted NO on. Give it up. Our taxes are already way too high! Look for ways to lower them for a change.

      • Grouchy 1 // January 10, 2019 at 3:14 PM //

        Not enough. They need to be able to fund the whole thing, AND maintain it, plus pay for staff.

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