WOW. KAMLOOPS could have a new performing arts centre in the heart of the downtown.
Tuesday, Jan 8, Ron Fawcett presented Kamloops Council with a vision of what could be possible. His vision includes three theatres of 1,200, 450 and 75 seats, as well as amenities such as a cafe and rehearsal halls. It came with a price tag of $70 million.
Behind him in council chambers every seat was filled. Another 100 supporters watched by video link from other rooms.
Fawcett, and his wife Rae, also put forward a carrot by offering to refurbish and donate a building on St. Paul Street for administration and rehearsal space for the Western Canada Theatre and the Kamloops Symphony.
The vision is there. Now what is needed is political will from Kamloops City Council.
The last go round, in 2015 there was also a performing arts centre on the table. But that time around, council was deafeningly silent. Whether they believed in the proposal in 2015 or not is hard to say. At most, they gave lukewarm endorsements. In the end, 54 per cent of voters said no to borrowing money for the proposal, and project went down in defeat.
This time around, I’m hoping that not only the council gets behind Fawcett’s vision, but that they loudly advocate for it. Councils’ voices need to be heard.
There are many reasons for a performing arts centre, including attracting more shows and conferences to Kamloops, and having excellent facilities for performers to use.
But for me, the primary reason to support a new centre is because our community members need a better facility. And by community, I think especially of people with mobility issues.
So far this year, we’ve been spared the winter snows. But typically all winter, concert goers are slogging up and down hills and over windrows to get to the Sagebrush Theatre. Having a theatre on a hill makes access difficult for all, and often impossible for people with mobility issues.
Once inside the theatre, there is inadequate railings and very limited seating for people who can’t climb stairs.
Even in summer months, the hillside location of the Sagebrush makes it difficult for many to access. There are only so many handicap parking spots next to the theatre entrance.
The lobby has very little seating, again making it difficult for many who can’t stand for long.
There was a point before my grandmother died when she no longer went to theatre productions. I am sure there are many others who know loved ones who have given up going to the Sagebrush as well.
I know that going forward there will be many people talking about the importance of a performing arts centre because of the quality of the performances.
But for me, first and foremost, a new performing arts centre is important because it would be more accessible for more people in the community.
And if we are to worry about performers, it shouldn’t be the touring productions of four or five people. We have all gone to see amazing community productions in the Sagebrush. Sometimes hundreds of children and youth are involved. They all must be stuffed into a crowded backstage. After the show, the lobby is overcrowded as well. We need spaces to accommodate the productions that matter the most: our kids’ recitals.
Good luck to Ron and Rae Fawcett, and their supporters. Here’s hoping Council will back their vision.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.