BASS: We need a performing-arts centre with TCC attributes
After the big splash announcement in January about the committee charged with moving forward on a possible performing-arts centre in the city, not much has been heard.
I’d like to think that’s because the committee members are out in the community, talking to people, asking them what they think, following up on what was a successful public-input session at the Tournament Capital Centre to get ideas from those of us who will plant our bums in the seats.
Mayor Peter Milobar has always said this is a process that will take some time, that needs to be done right and that won’t happen overnight, notwithstanding the enthusiasm some of the committee members have privately expressed about getting something built somewhere sooner rather than later.
Last year, while I was still covering entertainment for Kamloops This Week, I talked with some of the folks who might use such a facility and their visions were fascinating — but they had one common theme.
Whatever is built, wherever it is constructed, it needs to be something that can adapt to the many needs of the arts and culture community in Kamloops.
That means it can’t be just another big theatre, but needs to be able to accommodate the smaller audiences.
It needs to have the facilities for travelling stage shows and the adaptability to scale down for the more intimate performances.
It needs to be more than just a stage. It needs to provide some value to our own artists and artisans.
It needs to provide Kamloopsians who aren’t avid theatregoers, concert fans or buyers of art with a reason to experience what they’ve been missing.
So, here’s my idea of what should happen.
Here, I must go back to that ages-old report that was once talked about when the idea of a performing-arts centre was being mulled around — and that’s the site now occupied by the Henry Grube Education Centre.
There are good reasons to build something there and one really bad reason to do it.
The good? In my mind, I see a wonderful building set on the river with a restaurant overlooking the South Thompson, a venue that takes advantage of the incredible scenery available.
The bad? Traffic would be a nightmare because the roads into the site aren’t really designed for a lot of vehicles. Even if that could be addressed, some signalling changes would be needed or folks would end up stuck trying to get out onto Fortune Drive.
The solution? Forget about that site and build something where the Pavilion Theatre now sits.
Relocate that skatepark across the road, build a riverfront restaurant there and put a walkway over River Street to connect the two venues.
The need for a restaurant should be obvious but, this is Kamloops, where the premier theatre venue doesn’t have a liquor licence — or even a lobby area large enough to accommodate a full house at intermission without people tripping over each other.
The obvious reason to include it is financial — an operating restaurant would generate revenue.
Attaching it to the centre might help draw people who might not attend and provide an reason for those who know they will be buying tickets to a show with a reason to go earlier and relax or head over after the final curtain for a snack or nightcap.
In my hometown of London, Ont., the main performing-arts centre doesn’t have a restaurant because it’s located smack dab in the middle of downtown, surrounded by eateries offering every kind of food possible.
London’s art gallery, however, is located off the more-beaten path and features a lovely little restaurant that overlooks the river. It always seemed to be pretty busy with people.
There are so many other options available as Kamloops moves forward with this plan. Put in a classroom for an ongoing educational-program opportunity. Partner with the Kamloops Arts Council to add a retail component that will promote area artists.
Work with the theatre-arts folks at Thompson Rivers University to bring that wonderful program more attention than it now receives.
In short, be the artistic equivalent of the Tournament Capital Centre, something that has wide appeal, various components, world-class attributes and is accessible to everyone.