Dream of new Kelowna performing arts centre shaken but not dashed | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Dream of new Kelowna performing arts centre shaken but not dashed

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

The dream to have a new performing arts centre open in Kelowna by 2026 has not been dashed after a report to City Hall suggested it’s not likely to happen before 2028 and may even be beyond 2030.

The Citizen’s Committee for a new Performing Arts Centre has hundreds of supporters signed onto its website that still proclaims its intent to have the new centre open in 2026.

READ MORE: New group pushing Kelowna to build new performing arts centre within next five years

“That is the dream,” Patricia Ainslie, who chairs the committee, told iNFOnews.ca Wednesday, Nov. 24. “We have a desire. We really want this to happen. We’re enthusiastic. And then there’s reality.”

That reality was brought home on Monday when a report went to council that stressed the need to put the facility into its ten-year capital plan before much else can happen.

What Ainslie didn’t know until she was told by iNFOnews.ca is that the performing arts centre has actually been removed from that financial plan.

Each year the city reviews its planned capital spending for buildings, parks and services for the next 10 years.

READ MORE: New Kelowna performing arts centre pushed years into the future

Due to huge cost increases this year, and other demands on taxpayer money, the performing arts centre was removed altogether. It had been pencilled in for 2025 but at a low priority with no funding available.

Until that plan is reviewed next year, nothing much can happen in terms of planning for the new facility – if council does decide to add it back in.

The report to council suggested that a referendum would be the best way to get people talking about the theatre.

The quickest and cheapest way to hold a referendum would be in conjunction with the 2022 municipal election.

“It won’t be next year,” Sandra Kochan, partnership manager for the city who presented Monday’s report, told iNFOnews.ca.

Any talk of a referendum will have to wait until council puts the theatre back into the capital plan, which won’t happen until late next year. They just approved the current plan on Monday.

The next opportunity for a referendum to be held in conjunction with an election is 2026, although it could be held on its own.

To date, Ainslie’s group has been contacting arts groups and others and encouraging them to show their support by signing on through the website.

“We’ve got hundreds of supporters,” she said. “We need to work towards thousands.”

The group is trying to set up tables at cultural events but has been limited by COVID. It plans to become much more visible in the community early next year.

It has the support of groups like Ballet Kelowna, Kelowna Actors Studio and Kelowna Community Music School.

What is needed most of all though, is support from city staff and city council in putting the project back on the table.

In the meantime, Kelowna Community Theatre will have to do as it enters its 60th year in 2022.

“The current Kelowna Community Theatre will continue to serve us really really well,” Kochan said. “It’s in good shape and, as much as everyone would like to have a new performing arts centre, there are a lot of other infrastructure needs – very expensive needs – that are going to have to come first.”

If people want to change that narrative, they can join the Citizen’s Committee for a new Performing Arts Centre here.

The website includes a video featuring Rosemary Thomson, the music director and conductor of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, promoting the project.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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