Kelowna gearing up to join Kamloops, Penticton in push for more performing arts space - InfoNews

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Kelowna gearing up to join Kamloops, Penticton in push for more performing arts space

Could Kelowna be in line to build something like the proposed performing arts centre in Kamloops?
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/CHP Architects
September 18, 2019 - 4:30 PM

KELOWNA - Efforts are well underway to build thousands of performing arts seats in the Thompson-Okanagan but given the years it’s taken for some cities to get their acts together on this issue – if they actually do get their acts together – there’s nothing that’s for sure.

Kamloops has taken the lead in the region this year after a local philanthropic couple donated a $10 million building to kick-start the drive for a $70 million, 1,200-seat performing arts centre to open in 2023. It’s in the early stages of developing business and fundraising plans.

The South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society is planning a visioning session this fall to test the waters in the South Okanagan for a project that was first envisioned when land was bought by the City of Penticton for a theatre in 2008.

Kelowna city council approved a new cultural plan this week that hidden away in the smaller print called for the rebuilding of Kelowna Community Theatre. That space opened with 853 seats in 1962 when the city’s population was 15,000 or roughly a tenth of what it is today.

The new cultural plan, in a section on measuring success, calls for the rebuilding of the theatre to be moved to a top priority, rather than languishing on a wish list. The tentative schedule is for $3.2 million to be spent on detailed design work in 2025 with construction costing another $64.4 million over the following two years.

No one is saying what the building might look like, or how big it might be, unlike Kamloops where a design has been drawn up for a facility with three theatre spaces (1,200, 450 and 75 to 100 seats).

“We’ve done some work internally,” Robert Parlane, Kelowna’s parks and building planning manager, told iNFOnews.ca. “There’s no public plan quite intentionally because as we move forward, we would want to do a lot of public consultation before coming up with a plan.”

He noted that it’s tricky designing a larger building because there’s a risk of losing the intimacy needed for theatre performances so it might mean tiered seating. Kelowna city staff have looked at the space needed for a 1,200 seat facility to make sure it will fit on the land available.

There is also the issue of how it’s going to be paid for. It’s one thing to get city council to move it higher up on the priority list – which it hasn’t yet done – and another thing to come up with about $68 million to build it.

That may require a public fundraising campaign – as is proposed for Kamloops – along with grants from senior governments and some money from taxpayers.

Before that happens, Kelowna is also looking at $78 million to replace Parkinson Recreation Centre starting in 2021.

Given that it’s taken more than a decade to get work back on track in Penticton, and Kamloops is restarting after a failed 2015 referendum, theatre lovers in Kelowna may not want to wait much longer before gearing up for the challenge.

“I think the dialogue has already started,” Parlane said, the day after Kelowna’s new cultural plan was adopted city council.


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