Arts centre proponent says civic centre idea won't work with PAC proposal

Ron Fawcett says there is no room for conference space in the performing-arts centre proposal, which he presented to city council earlier this year.

Fawcett said the amount of space required to host conferences would be “tremendous” and the design put to council has no extra room.

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“I don’t even remotely think it’s possible,” Fawcett told KTW.

Fawcett wanted to make clear he has not been working with Tourism Kamloops on the concept of a civic centre, which CEO Beverley DeSantis has floated to include in a performing-arts centre convention space to attract more events and business travellers to the city.

DeSantis told KTW she raised the civic centre idea when the Fawcetts — Ron and wife Rae — appeared at a Western Canada Theatre meeting, before they proposed the performing-arts centre to the city in January at a council meeting.

She said there was no pushback during that exchange, noting the couple’s “passion” lies in the performing arts.

Fawcett, meanwhile, said he does not recall meeting DeSantis, but he earlier heard a rumour of someone promoting a convention centre idea in the city. DeSantis also said she met with councillors and a couple of Rotary clubs about the idea.

pac rendering
An artist's rendering of the latest proposed Performing-arts Centre.

Asked if he considered working with Tourism Kamloops, Fawcett said unless more land is available, “it’s not possible.”

The proposed performing-arts centre would rise at the corner of Seymour Street and Fourth Avenue, on the former site of the Kamloops Daily News. The property is now city-owned and is a parking lot.

The Fawcetts purchased an adjacent property on St. Paul Street they plan to donate to the PAC project as office space for the various arts groups that will use the PAC.

Fawcett said that while he is open to discussing anything, the city needs a performing-arts centre. The proposed facility would include space for the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, Western Canada Theatre, travelling groups, larger schools and other user groups.

Sagebrush Theatre, out of which the groups usually perform, is closed until at least the fall, due to a cracked roof truss. The closure has left arts groups scrambling to find suitable space and are currently performing in churches and at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre in Aberdeen.

The performing-arts centre proposal is in the council’s hands and no direction on the $70 million venture has so far been made clear. However, council did include in its recent four-year strategic plan the priority of livability, including council direction to “explore options for community cultural facilities.”

Fawcett, who owns the Kelson Group — a Kamloops-based property-management company — is a local philanthropist and businessman who offered millions of dollars worth of land and design plans to resurrect a plan for a performing -arts centre in downtown Kamloops. The 103,000-square-foot centre would include three theatres, with 1,200, 450 and 75 to 100 seats. The proposal includes 36,000 square feet of underground parking for 70 spaces, with the option of adding additional layers of underground parking if the city chooses.

In a 2015 referendum, voters rejected a proposed $91-million PAC and parkade at the same location. At that time, the Fawcetts pledged $5 million toward the overall cost if the proposal was approved by voters.

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