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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

Kamloops City Councillor Tina Lange; “It's the next step to Kamloops coming of age.”


While Canadians debate the right or wrong of Canadian coffee / donut icon Tim Horton’s pulling ads for Enbridge (by the way they were indeed wrong), all is still quiet in Kamloops when it comes to discussions and debate regarding the new proposed Performing Arts Centre for Kamloops.
 
Meantime the former Kamloops Daily News building and parking lot, site of the centre, continues to look like a bigger and bigger eyesore in our community.
 
Downtown Kamloops
It would seem Kamloops City Councilor Tina Lange agrees, telling me that a new performing arts centre would provide us with many benefits including giving our downtown a jump start providing an amazing anchor … creating quality jobs to build it … and because Seymour street is pretty dismal at the moment, it would drive investment in the existing properties.
 
As the preliminary report of the performing arts centre states, the discussion on the need in our community for a facility of this kind, has been a process that has gone on now for over a dozen years:
In 2002, the City commenced a public engagement process by initiating the development of a Cultural Strategic Plan. Adopted by Council in 2003, the Cultural Strategic Plan validated this need and put forward as one of its five key recommendations, that a new Kamloops Arts and Heritage Centre be constructed as part of the “blueprint” for cultural development for the City over the next decade. 
 
Now I don’t negate the need for time to be allocated for major decisions that affect and impact the people of our city, it sure does seem like it takes us a LONG time to get to a final decision on big ticket items. 
 
Cases in point … discussions around building a new City Hall (still stalled) … the possibility of a new museum facility (or simply spreading out the exhibits to other facilities) … a long-term plan for where the Big Little Science Centre can permanently call home … where to put a new parkade in the downtown area … and good grief how long did it take before a shovel finally went in the ground for what is now called the Interior Savings Centre … and of course we have the recreational facilities at TRU which are a huge draw for our city every year.  They, along with ISC are two big reasons why we can take pride in being the Tournament Capitol of Canada! 
 
What’s the next step?  Well Tina Lange, a proponent of a new Performing Arts facility, says, It's the next step to Kamloops coming of age.”
 
All of that leads me to say thankfully, the discussion of whether to go ahead with a new performing arts centre, with the much needed parking required for downtown, will culminate at long last in a taxpayer decision late this year.  A decision which I for one hope will be favorable, and there’s good reason why! 
 
Here’ another comment from the preliminary report I noted above:
A review of booking dates (a rental / activity event for one client occurring in a 24 hour period) confirmed that the Sagebrush Theatre is highly utilized with 72% of calendar and 88% of prime dates booked. 
 
This in fact was news to me until the other day when I was talking with a friend, who was considering bring in a concert act, only to find they could not get a date at the Sagebrush Theatre (which will hold just over 700 people) due to the high bookings it already has just with the School District and Western Canada Theatre Company alone. 
 
I am going to pull a bit more information from the feasibility study to refresh and remind you of what we currently have available for the performing arts in Kamloops:
 
The Interior Savings Centre is an arena and home to the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. Total seating capacity is 5,158, which can be reduced for theatre events (746 or 960 seats) and concerts (1,099 seats to 4,430 seats). Performances are generally touring music concerts brought in by local and regional promoters. However, the venue is often bypassed by notable artists because the limited seating capacity means they can’t sell enough tickets for the show to be profitable. Other artists decline to perform here due to the lack of intimacy, ambiance and acoustics for their performance.  
 
Sagebrush Theatre is a 706 seat proscenium theatre owned by the City and the School District, and, operated by the Western Canada Theatre Company (WCTC). As the only commercial theatre venue in the community, it is booked to its maximum. Priority is given to bookings by the WCTC and the School Board as per the facility’s Joint Use Management Agreement, resulting in limited availability for other arts groups. The Theatre is consistently fully booked, with scheduling of events up to two years in advance
 
The Pavilion Theatre is a 165 seat “black box” studio theatre operated by WCTC. While it is sufficiently fit out for performances, it is generally used as the WCTC’s rehearsal hall. The WCTC’s administration offices and production shops are located in the venue. Limited bookings are available and the form of the theatre as a “studio” makes it conducive to a limited number of uses and is undesirable by several arts and performance groups in the City. 
 
Coast Hotel Conference Centre Theatre is a proscenium style theatre within the hotel’s conference centre. Its seating capacity, 475 in the theatre format and 350 in the dinner theatre format, functions very well for conventions, conferences and meeting events. 
 
Thompson Rivers University has several facilities including the Grand Hall, Barber Centre, Alumni Theatre, and Black Box Theatre that are available for booking by the local community. 
 
Local churches (Calvary Community, Kamloops Alliance, Summit Drive, St. Andrew’s on the Square) and community venues (Old Courthouse Cultural Centre, Paramount Theatre) are also being used for arts productions and cultural events. While such converted use venues serve to help establish programs and audiences, they are not conducive to long term growth of the performing arts and do not meet the standards required for professional and commercial groups
 
So, we have local church and community facilities that will hold up to several hundred people … the Pavilion Theater that holds 165 … the Coast Hotel with seating up to 475 … followed by the Sagebrush (which again is fully booked year-round) with 706 seats … and finally the Interior Savings Centre with concert seating of between 1,100 to 4,400 people, and theater seating of between 750 to 950. 


I don’t know about you, but for large concerts, the ISC is great – it’s a full house.  On the other hand, when it’s a smaller and more intimate performance going on, the ISC becomes a big empty echoing building that is far from being adequate for these types of events.  Simply put, it is not designed for those kind of events. 
 
Rough drawing of proposed performing arts facility
Again, Tina Lange agrees with that comment, stating to me, We miss many performing groups because we don't have the right venue.”
 
She’s right! 
 
If you agree with that comment (and I hope you do), then we do have a huge gap (and need) for a facility between what the Sagebrush Theatre and ISC offer.  NOT just in the number of seats, but in what would be ideal for artists to perform in – and in a facility properly designed for performing arts usage. 
 
I also have to think that Kamloops is definitely being by-passed on the performing arts circuit as well because we do not have an adequate facility to meet the demands of performance in that 1,000 to 1,300 range.  Musicians, bands, and theatre groups can’t sell enough tickets with the limited seating of the Sagebrush Theatre, nor do they likely want to take a risk on the costs of renting the huge ISC.  Just looking at the types of facilities we have – and the seating variances, I feel confident in saying we are getting a pass on touring artists who are going elsewhere where quality performing arts centres are available to them. 
 
This year, the outcome of consultations suggested a strong economic base to support arts and culture programming. The Feasibility Overview suggested … “Current analysis of Kamloops catchment area and available theatre seats suggests a shortfall of 1,056 seats and a lack of availability of booking dates in current facilities. Master Facility Functional Program suggests a 97,600 square feet facility with a 1200 seat Main Theatre, 350 seat Black Box/studio Theatre, Rehearsal Halls, Lobby, Back of House, Support Spaces, Administration and Desirable Amenities” 
 
The Report from the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department, to City council recommended that council authorize:
 
1)    The referendum question "Are you in favour of the City of Kamloops borrowing up to $49 million to design and construct the parkade and performing arts centre complex?"; and
2)    November 7, 2015, be the referendum date for the performing arts centre.

As I mentioned earlier, City Councillor Tina Lange is one who has been a strong proponent of the facility.  I asked her why, and along with the comments I have already noted, she also said that ... cities all over the world have proven the strong business case for such an investment ... a Performing Arts Centre attracts and keeps professionals in the community … it would give the sports city more cultural balance ... AND … it would bring people in from the region to spend money right here in Kamloops instead of elsewhere. 

I
n addition, we will need to build a parkade regardless of whether we combine the projects, but doing both is a much better use of the land, and a performing arts facility would also fill the parkade at night as well. 
 
Finally … for $40 per house, per year, you can't find a better investment for our great city! 
 
While I generally tend to agree with what he has to say, I disagree with Jordan Bateman, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, who says … $90 million is too much for a city under 100,000.  I
 
It’s not, and that figure will only continue to grow the longer we wait. Tina Lange is right, the performing arts community is right.  We need this facility now – let’s not wait any longer. 
 
The time to get the discussion rolling, so we have a YES vote later this year, is now.  Are you a proponent of constructing a new performing arts facility?  Then don’t wait till we’re a day or two away from voting.  Start talking to your friends and neighbours now, so they too will vote “Yes”.  
 
I’m Alan Forseth in Kamloops … care to share any thought you have on this topic?

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