Ron Fawcett still hopes to see curtains rise at the Kamloops Centre for the Arts.
“I’m still hoping it’s going to go through,” Fawcett said.
The local businessman and philanthropist put forward plans for a performing-arts centre in downtown Kamloops and donated land and millions of dollars in cash in a bid to see the proposed facility become a reality.
An April 4 referendum asking voters if they approve of the city borrowing up to $45 million toward the overall cost of the arts centre was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No new voting date has been set.
Fawcett told KTW he was disappointed the referendum was axed, but added it was the right thing to do.
“It wasn’t even a question. It had to be,” Fawcett said. “Everybody’s done the right thing, so far.”
If the referendum had proceeded as planned, he believes it would have passed, touting the project’s plans and location. Fawcett said Kamloops Centre for the Arts plans, as well as his donation of land on St. Paul Street and money, have not been taken off the table. The proposal remains on hold, but Fawcett noted his donations do not have an expiration date.
Fawcett said it is possible plans could change. He pointed to a 1,200-seat theatre as part of design for the centre and wondered what that space would look like amid pandemic-related gathering restrictions.
“I think it’s probably going to take a year to be clear. It’s OK with me. I don’t have to give them [city] any money until then,” Fawcett said with a laugh.
But what if it takes five years?
“I’m 80, so who knows if I’ll still be here,” Fawcett replied.
Amid concerns the cost could rise the longer it is on hold, Fawcett said he believes the pandemic will lead to more federal dollars for the project, potentially even reducing the amount required to be paid by city taxpayers. On Tuesday, Fawcett was at a groundbreaking for The Hive business office project downtown, along with son, Jason Fawcett.
A&T Project Developments principal Frank Quinn, a partner in The Hive project, told dignitaries revitalization of the economy will come from federal money, initiated by municipalities. He called for the proposed arts centre, eyed to rise a few blocks from The Hive, to be put back onto the city’s agenda.
“Make sure we drive that through,” Quinn said. “Because it will really make a difference. Lots of federal money available to do it.”
Meanwhile, the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society sent a letter to supporters on Tuesday, reflecting on the campaign and cancelled referendum and notifying of paused efforts.
It also requested members participate in an online survey, which asked about awareness of the cancelled referendum and how the society can support arts and culture right now.
“The world has changed since we launched our campaign to promote the creation of a new centre for the arts,” society board chair Norm Daley wrote in the letter.
“By all indications, we appeared to be very close to a successful referendum, but with so much change and uncertainty, we believe this is no longer the time to move forward with this project. … When the time is right, we will bring this project back to the community. In the meantime, we plan to work closely with the city and our partners in the arts and culture sector to help them get back on their feet.”