ROTHENBURGER – Kamloops has failed in cultural vision set 20 years ago

One of many public sessions over the years on arts and culture. This one was in 2015.

TWENTY YEARS AGO, Kamloops was feeling good about itself.

The waterfront from Riverside Park to the Red Bridge was being transformed, the art gallery was a popular amenity, the museum had been revamped, Riverside Coliseum (now Sandman Centre) had been built, and plans were in the works for a referendum on construction of the Tournament Capital Centre and upgrading and expansion of the McArthur Island Sports and Events Centre.

The city was truly becoming a great place to “live, work and play,” as its strategic plans put it. One thing was missing: an iconic performing arts centre. Though a $2-million renovation spruced up the Sagebrush Theatre, and the Pavilion Theatre was popular for smaller stage productions, Kamloops was woefully short of arts spaces.

In 2003, a cultural strategic plan was released painting a picture of a Kamloops that could be as strong in cultural amenities as it was in sports venues.


Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9641 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.

4 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – Kamloops has failed in cultural vision set 20 years ago

  1. John Noakes // August 29, 2022 at 6:12 AM // Reply

    There seems to have been a different culture take over in recent years. The importance of a PAC downtown seems to have diminished.
    If McDonald’s doesn’t feel it is safe to operate a family restaurant downtown, what is that saying?

  2. “Whatever happens next with respect to culture will require strong leadership from City Hall, not the weak-kneed “it must come from the community” approach that’s become the mantra of the current administration.”

    No, but kinda yes … but still … no.

    More recently that 2003, the City has taken a ‘strong leadership’ role in the plan for a PAC, and that was the Milobar era “there is no option 2” attempt, but required the PAC to incorporate a massive parking structure at a combined cost that lost itself in referendum. Suffice to say, that kind of ‘strong leadership’ from the city is not necessarily a good idea.

    A City is not the body best suited to building infrastructure that it has no knowledge, business, experience or ability … to be building. It ain’t a streetlight or a water treatment plant or a field. This is a very specialised and expensive type of facility that requires a massive amount of experience and knowledge. This is a theatrical and audio environment … not a cinder-block tool shed.

    Conversely, the ‘community approach’, be it like the PAC Society, with individuals on-board with the experience in building this very type of thing, that was behind the last proposal that was sunk by a poorly timed Covid thing … is still a direction that creates a proposal, that I can get behind.

    I dont see that as Council being weak-knee’d by initially allowing the community approach, but thats not to say that the City and Council couldn’t have played a better role within this community oriented approach, than the very much ‘hands off’ approach that they did.

    So; Its a no, but kinda yes … but still … no.

  3. Thanks for sustaining the discussion, despite the old plan not being sustained. Perhaps we need to embrace wider definitions of culture: athletics, the arts, outdoor spaces, diversity and the acknowledgement of history all under the word “culture”, because it is certainly worth sustaining.

  4. A scathing assessment of local leadership if I ever seen one!

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