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Kamloops mayor changes tune on support for performing arts centre

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Support for the proposed performing arts centre in downtown Kamloops was once one of a few things Kamloops city councillors and the mayor could easily agree on. That appears to be changing.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson isn't so sure about the multi-million arts facility he has long supported, just as the wheels start turning on the project.

"I don't feel too good about it to be honest with you," Hamer-Jackson told iNFOnews.ca.

He has supported the prospect of the new facility since before he was mayor, previously telling iNFOnews.ca he and his wife were members of the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society.

"When we first started strategic planning, and in my campaign, I wanted to have something big with a performing arts centre, with a convention centre, with rinks, recreation and places to park," he said.

The downtown property eyed for the arts centre is the former Kamloops Daily News site, and it was turned into a parking lot until plans and funding were in place to replace it with a civic facility. More than 100 parking spaces are there now and that will be replaced with 219 once the facility is finished.

Those spaces, according to Hamer-Jackson, are valuable parking spots to give up for construction, which with then be in demand for arts centre use.

"When we started our strategic planning, performing arts wasn't at the top of the list. Recreation was at the top and performing arts was right there too," he said. "But after they squashed my standing committees, this was on their working groups."

His vision would see the centre have a "big parking platform where people could come from all over and have places to park," Hamer-Jackson said. For him, he would see the centre outside of downtown and in an area where there is more recreation and agriculture, suggesting the area around the Tournament Capital Ranch in Rayleigh would be better suited.

He also said the project would only have his support if it was tied to provincial and federal government grants.

Deputy chief administrative officer Byron McCorkell is expected to update council on the performing arts centre at the June 25 council meeting. Radio NL reported last week that council may hear a renewed budget expectation for the project and potential paths for funding and voter approval.

The City has started the process of lining up contractors and designers for the project that was last estimated to cost around $120 million. Council gave staff the OK to spend $7 million on the design work and it's expected to be completed around by summer 2026.

Exactly how it would be funded hasn't been sorted out yet, but the City would likely start applying for grants from higher levels of government once the designs are completed and a more accurate budget is ready.

Hamer-Jackson didn't say he was entirely opposed to the performing arts centre when speaking with iNFOnews.ca last week, but he indicated there will be strings attached before he gives his approval, including whether there will be more parking.

"I'm not against the performing arts centre, but I want a lot of provincial and federal money, big parking, recreation, the package," he said.


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