BEPPLE – Accessibility should be big consideration with new arts theatre

Conceptual drawing of proposed PAC.

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.

Fawcett is not alone in wanting more for Kamloops.

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.

About Mel Rothenburger (7953 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.

10 Comments on BEPPLE – Accessibility should be big consideration with new arts theatre

  1. Tracey Lodge // December 5, 2019 at 5:50 AM // Reply

    I am a regular WTC subscriber and in the last six months, I have had to use a walker, cane and wheelchair. If I sit in the seats allocated, my legs can get very painful and it is difficult to stand and walk. We do need more spaces for theatre and music that is more accessible.

  2. Nel DeWit Mitchell-Kloubek Sarrasin // January 9, 2019 at 12:17 PM // Reply

    The cost of building and running this should NOT be the taxpayers’ concern. There are so many people struggling to just get by in life and pay their mortgage. They don’t have the funds to ever go to the place. Another big issue is the parking. Thus far, the City hasn’t made adequate parking a priority. This goes for residential areas as well as businesses. Where are the priorities?

  3. There are plenty of fine places to attend on a Sunday morning and many have wonderful live music. Most people get a great deal out of singing along and even come out on a regular basis.
    Support is generally given by free will donations which can be claimed on one’s income tax.

    There is always room for a few newcomers to join. And the parking is free.

    Not really your typical “performing arts centre” but perhaps worth a shot.

  4. Dawne Taylor // January 9, 2019 at 9:57 AM // Reply

    Re: leaving it to arts community to pay for. Hardly. I’ve never graced the TCC building, yet was expected to pay for it. Those who don’t use transit pay for it. Likewise those who don’t drive pay for the roads. And those without children pay for the school system. It’s called living in community and the caring for the common good.

  5. And I suppose that we should stop funding the Sandman centre, McArthur Island Park, and all other sports facilities because I don’t use them. Hey, while we’re at it, why not pave over Riverside Park…it would solve all our downtown parking problems. If you’re a stay at home couch potato, I can understand how you feel about supporting projects that you don’t use, but many others in your community enjoy live theatre, concerts by a well known performer, and all the other events that such a facility will provide. Who knows, the PAC may entice you to get off the couch and actually attend a concert or play.
    Just like when you’re purchasing a house or condo, any professionals, like doctors, check out a community’s amenities before deciding to locate there…what does it offer besides a place to work. The Sagebrush was a great asset when it was built, and will still be used after all these years, but Kamloops has increased in its population and has outgrown what the Sagebrush has to offer. Kamloops has the opportunity to now outgrow its image of a railway, pulp mill, industrial town with few doctors, and become a vibrant community that will attract people from other areas to move here. Let’s get it on!

    • ” Kamloops has the opportunity to now outgrow its image of a railway, pulp mill, industrial town with few doctors, ”

      You’re wrong. Kamloops will still be all of the above, but it will just have a PAC that no one can afford to go to because they will be taxed to death, and busy trying to stay in their homes. That and crumbling infrastructure because the city can’t manage to keep that maintained as it stands.

  6. There are many many details to be worked out, hopefully conucil does its home work. Is that their New Year resolution?

  7. Well said Nancy. Bring it on.

  8. Once again, this proposal seems to want the taxpayer to foot the bulk of the bill. The funding, and maintenance costs should fall to the arts community to provide. The taxpayer is not a bottomless pit. In spite of the claims, this will never pay for itself, that idea is just pie in the sky.

    • Not only maintenance but what about in 25 years from now…they will have to shut it down for one year for “refurbishing” costing another 5% (or thereabouts) increase in taxes. Because if we base future performance on present performance that is what will happen.

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