Kamloops city councillor says possibility of performing arts centre isn't dead yet | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops city councillor says possibility of performing arts centre isn't dead yet

Artist's rendering of the proposed performing arts centre slated for 393 Seymour Street.
Image Credit: Business Case
August 30, 2018 - 5:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - It was almost three years ago when residents voted no to a proposed performing arts centre in the city's downtown core, and a Kamloops city councillor is looking at it as a learning opportunity.

The Kamloops community was invited to participate in a referendum that gave voters the option to either vote yes or no to the city borrowing $49 million to build a $90 million performing arts centre. In the end, voters decided to vote no to the city borrowing the money, and further proposals for a performing arts centre haven't been brought forward since.

But one Kamloops city councillor says the idea of a performing arts centre coming to the city hasn't died yet.

Coun. Kathy Sinclair, who sits as the executive director of the Kamloops Art Council and was heavily involved with the YES campaign in support of the performing arts centre, says there are still opportunities for a designated arts venue to come forward, except this time she thinks the proposal should be led by volunteers.

"I think the lesson learned from that campaign was that when you look at performing art centre models in other cities, they succeed when the grassroots get involved," she says. "The Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society in Merritt, they're raising funds for a new performing arts centre that's going to include a movie theatre as well because Merritt doesn't currently have a movie theatre."

Volunteer groups seem to have more success when they come together to pitch a proposal for such venues, she explains.

"I think that's really a model for success...rather than a municipality leading it, you have a group of people and there's much greater ability to apply for grants through Canadian Heritage as well as through the province," she says. "In the last performing arts centre reiteration, eventually a society was supposed to take it over but I think that would have been a stronger pitch if that had happened earlier." 

Currently, the City of Kamloops has other options for art performance venues but Sinclair says they're not ideal.

"The Sagebrush Theatre is booked over 280 days a year, so when we get out of town acts coming through...their options are really limited to a very small venue or booking at the Sandman Centre...but it's not an ideal venue because it's built for hockey games," she says.

Sinclair says if smaller cities like Vernon or Revelstoke can have performing arts centres, Kamloops should be on that list too.

"There's a big economic impact spinoff effect of having art venues in cities, it's something people look for when they're looking to move to a new city, they want to know that there is a vibrant art scene," she says. "Kamloops is losing out on the opportunity because...people (might) go to Vernon instead of staying here."

Sinclair adds if another proposal was to come forward, a downtown location would still be the best fit.

"The downside of the Sagebrush theatre is that you can't go for dinner and then walk to the theatre, well you can but it's a little more challenging, having a venue within walking distance of lots of restaurants is a huge economic boost for the city and local businesses," she says.

Another important message Sinclair adds about a proposed performing arts centre in Kamloops is that it would be for more than just a select group of the population.

"It could be a civic centre, it could be a place where you go to see your high school kids graduate, see comedy shows, so I see it as a multi-use space with good acoustics," she says. "Whether you're going to see a theatre show or not, chances are you're probably going to set foot into that building at some point."

At the moment the city has no future plans to pursue another performing arts proposal, Sinclair says.

For past coverage on the performing arts centre referendum in Nov. 2015 go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 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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