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JOHNSON – The new Kamloops Performing Arts Centre proposal arrives

Conceptual drawing of proposed PAC.

By DAVID JOHNSON

Step One: The business plan

THE BUSINESS PLAN for the proposed Kamloops Performing Arts Centre was released at Tuesday’s City council meeting.  The plan includes complete details of the capital investment, annual operational costs, stage one conceptual building design, ownership, maintenance and proposed administration options, pretty much everything needed to get the project off the ground.

David Johnson.

Before we go any further, it should be noted that the 2015 referendum was NOT about if we wanted a performing arts centre, but for the required loan to build that proposal … that’s all.

That referendum failed, because of the high capital cost to the City alone ($90+ Million), paid for by a very large loan and would result in a two per cent increase in property taxes for at least 20 years to pay the loan back.  It was an expensive plan, and a poor plan, badly executed.

Kamloops has never had a referendum to decide if a PAC was desired by voters.

Tuesday unveiled a new proposal, not brought to us by the City, but a grassroots society tasked with the job of putting a deal together, and presenting it to the City and the rest of us.

The Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society is populated by community members, performing arts groups, and individuals with specific skills in the world of community outreach and networking, administration, finance, infrastructure construction and the ongoing operation of a facility like this. People who know how to do this.  A glance down the list of board, committee and operational members is impressive.

This proposal, at first glance, may not require a referendum.  That depends on whether or not the City will require a referendum for its share of the capital needed to build it.  The entire project is projected to cost $70 Million, with only $30 to $45 Million borne by the City (depending on the chosen scenario), the rest funded via provincial, federal, corporate and private donation.

That’s a far cry from $90 million.

The plan includes no increase in property taxes, which is a big one for many residents.

The proposal also includes an operating business plan, that expects it to operate at break even economically, ie: it will cost as much to run as it earns in tickets and rentals.

This proposal even includes underground parking … not a lot, but some. Even though parking is at a premium downtown, we need to keep in mind that it is not in a performance centre’s mandate to solve the daily parking woes of a city.  Daytime parking complaints should be directed at the City.

The size of the two theatres; a large 1,200-seat and a smaller 450-seat, as well as a black box space shown in the concept design is partly possible, as all administrative offices would be in the existing adjacent building owned by Ron Fawcett.

Not having to accommodate office space frees up square footage and allows for maximization for the centre’s intended use. This is a good idea.  Having a larger theatre space than we would regularly need now, protects us regarding future population expansion.

The reason I am tentatively supportive of this plan is because it’s a grassroots movement, not a City-headed project facilitated by politicians and City staffers.

This kind of work is not what a city is good at

Cities are not good at planning and building big infrastructure like this on their own.  They are good at running sport field and sports facilities, running utilities, building and fixing roads, snow shoveling, dealing with permits and plans and parking meters.

When it comes to large infrastructure facilities, you want to get the right people involved who already know what they are doing, as things can happen more quickly and less expensively than if it was a City endeavour, less mistakes or errors are made and simply … there’s less red tape to stumble into regarding getting anything done.

If there is any way possible to get this done without a referendum, that would be the best way forward.  One of the lessons of the last referendum included learning that in order for people to adopt the performing arts crowd’s need for infrastructure, the doors need to be opened in front of them to the touring shows they want to see.  The shows that can’t stop here now because we don’t have the room.

We can try to explain this till we are blue in the face but once they sit in there … they will understand and be glad it was built.

Performance centres are one of those things that are appreciated once they are experienced.

To get there from here, the thing does need to make economic sense.  We need every federal, provincial and corporate dollar findable, even if it means a Nike Swatch type symbol on the side of it.  Priority number one is to sharply minimize the City’s own capital investment, so a referendum is not needed and the risk of crowd insouciance is sidestepped.

I am tentative in my support at this stage (once bitten, maybe twice shy?), as there is a long way to go to put all the pieces together to make it happen, but with good planning, efficient execution and a bit of luck … we could be sitting in this theater watching the first show in the fall of 2023 … and our taxes didn’t go up because of it.

Strikes me at this early date … as maybe a win-win.

To read the entire business plan for yourself:

https://kamloopscentreforthearts.ca/wp-content/themes/kca/pdf/kca-business-case.pdf

To visit the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society website, and to join as a member for $2.

https://kamloopscentreforthearts.ca

David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.

About Mel Rothenburger (7712 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.

5 Comments on JOHNSON – The new Kamloops Performing Arts Centre proposal arrives

  1. Thank you editor for pointing out the the PAC business plan is indeed available on the society web page, though my comments still apply, that is that the document is described as confidential, indeed cautioning that the reading public should not shared with or disclose the contents to anyone else without express consent. My goodness, we are seeing violations of this all round. One hopes the city will be more inclined to transparency before voting to approve the business plan.

  2. Readers should note that the business case for the PAC – helpful link provided in the article above – is marked confidential and has boilerplate legal language cautioning readers, other than the society or the City, to neither share or disclose the contents of the business case with any other person. Whilst not doing that, I recommend that anyone daring enough to follow the link might – in utter seclusion, perhaps a windowless room – compare it with the readily available plan prepared for the 2015 case. I believe that any business case for a huge public investment should be wide open to informed scrutiny and even welcome challenges as to the assumptions and estimates.

  3. I have to ask questions; how new is the plan? What I see is the underground parking cut way down and the offices/art gallery storage moved to the donated structure. Some of the detailed questions that might be asked through a robust public engagement process are:
    – Has the business case been updated to reflect that some years have gone by?
    – The obvious critical issue of what happens with parking when both a PAC event and a Blazer hockey game happen on the same evening?
    – Many indicators point to a coming, and possibly deep, recession. How will this impact on the construction timetable and cost overruns?
    – Given the economy, how certain are we of government grants? What is assured?
    – I note that the business case still describes a breathtaking number of full-time equivalency jobs needed to operate the venue. How is that justified? Can that be reviewed?
    – Given that most PAC’s in North America, indeed most arts facilities (admirable as they may be) require public subsidy for their operating costs, how does that affect the future need for tax increases?
    – How much does it cost to heat and cool the adjoining office/storage building? Who pays for that burden?
    – How much tax revenue is the city forgoing in the transfer (admirable as the donation might be) of prime commercial space into non-profit office and arts storage rooms?

    I am very much in favour of better arts facilities for Kamloops and will likely vote yes if these and other questions get a full airing at a number of public engagement meetings. We need to do it again and do it right this time. The author of the “New Performing Arts Centre Arrives” makes that quite clear.

  4. A local grassroots organization entrusted to plan, design and build a large infrastructure project? You are just kidding I hope Mr. Johnson. The last time around the City hired a specialized consulting firm to come up with a concept and a well prepared plan. That’s how large infrastructure projects come to be…you hire competent people, competent on each of the many and varied aspects of large infrastructure projects. Having said that, the previous plan had some flaws and you are right the referendum was about borrowing for the facility and not about the facility itself. Personally I want a PAC and I am prepared to donate, not as much as the Fawcett’s but donate nevertheless and I hope a serious fundraiser drive gets underway soon to avoid repeating one of the serious flaws of the previous proposal. And we need to get serious about creating a better transit system (RE: How do one gets to a performance?) and we need to realize that parking is expensive any which way you look at it…including from an environmental perspective. But then again we should always have a serious debate on every aspect of our collective existence for much of the same reasons, monetary costs and environmental costs, together under one roof.

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