Kamloops Centre for the Arts: A river seems to run through opinion

KTW’S informal survey found support, opposition coalesced in specific areas of Kamloops

Kamloops city council has given the green light to move ahead with a referendum to borrow up to $45 million to build a performing arts centre in downtown Kamloops. Residents will vote on April 4, 2020. Council has also approved a $35,000 communications campaign with facts about the proposal. In advance of the referendum and the communications campaign, Kamloops This Week wanted to hear directly from residents on what they know about the project thus far and what they think of its merits.
On Friday, Nov. 15, KTW reporter JESSICA WALLACE and photographer DAVE EAGLES visited six neighbourhoods in the city to speak with a random sampling of residents. The locales were the Valleyview strip mall, downtown on Victoria Street, Tranquille Road in North Kamloops, the Brock Shopping Centre in Brocklehurst, the Westsyde Shopping Centre in Westsyde and Aberdeen Mall straddling Aberdeen and Dufferin.
Here’s what we heard when we asked: What do you know and what do you think about the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts?


PAC streeter
Marilynn Mitchell.

• “Only that it’s a second proposal. The first one was not well-received. But I think it’s a good idea. I know these things are expensive, but I think once it’s all done and in use, everybody would be happy with it. I think these things are a good idea for a city. I just think you should have these things in a city. It seems to me, people are always against things in the beginning. Then, once it’s all built and people are using it, people will go to the plays and performances and be happy with it.”
— Marilynn Mitchell, 72, Juniper resident

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PAC streeter
Kathy Ruddick

• “I need to educate myself more on it. I know there’s a referendum and it was defeated because nobody wanted it because of the costs … I’ve just been hearing it on the news a little bit. I know that taxpayers are concerned about it, how much its going to go up … I think it’s a good idea. It’s culture, it’s the performing arts.
I think there needs to be more of a platform for that.”
— Kathy Ruddick, 63, Dallas resident

PAC streeter
Scott Karpiak

• “I know that it’s going to be back for a referendum, for a second time and under new financial circumstances. I think it’ll help create more interest, with more private backing, hopefully. I voted in favour of it last time and I’ll vote in favour of it this time. Everybody I know feels the same way. It’s an important element of our culture, especially for our downtown culture. I have two young children and they’re both growing up in dance and gymnastics and music lessons and hopefully singing lessons. I think there needs to be some venues for our children in the future, other than just hockey arenas. I’ve lived in Saskatoon, I’ve lived in Oregon, I’ve lived in Vancouver and, even a town like Saskatoon, it’s bigger than Kamloops, but you wouldn’t believe the performing-arts centre they have there. They’re not known to be the cultural hub of Canada, but it was impressive, nonetheless. If we can achieve even a fraction of that, we’re doing OK. And you know what? It’s better than a parking lot down there.”
— Scott Karpiak, 45, Rose Hill resident


PAC streeter
Mike Shannon

• “This time around, not much yet. I followed it last time. I personally am more in favour of some kind of joint-venture enterprise. That’s how I would prefer to see it go. But at the end of the day, I just would like to see it go. I think the performing arts is a big part of society. I think we need to have somewhere to showcase that Kamloops is not a small town anymore ... I think it’s long overdue. Kamloops, now, it’s big enough where we deserve to have a facility like that.”
— Mike Shannon, 64, Valleyview resident

PAC streeter
Todd Harding

• “What do I know about it? It’s going to be $45 million, that’s what we have to borrow. But, apparently, it’s not goimg to affect our taxes this time because the TCC loan is paid off. It sounds like it’s going to be a nice venue, with a number of facilities inside of it to provide different amounts of seating for different types of performances. I don’t think I have an opinion yet. I was not in favour of it last time simply because of the cost and the tax implications. I was dead against it, but I need to think about it a little more … I didn’t agree with us leaving that debt load for other people down the road to pay off. The big thing for me was definitely money. I think I have to see more about what kind of money this is going to bring to the community, what kind of entertainment this is going to bring to the community, do we need it?”
— Todd Harding, 63, downtown resident

PAC streeter
Sam Sommer

• “I know that we are going to have another referendum and I understand that the funding parameters might be a little bit different this time. The big thing I heard was that it wouldn’t affect taxes. I’m all for it. I think it would be a great project for Kamloops. It’s an opportunity for some more acts coming to Kamloops for entertainment, an opportunity for young kids to get into the arts. I have a six-year-old who is a bit of a ham, so I could see him using it some day. I mean, we had some pushback to the Tournament Capital Centre years ago and I’m a member up there now and it’s full all the time. There’s tonnes of people who travel through there annually. I imagine the arts centre would be the same.”
— Sam Sommer, 38, Dufferin resident


PAC streeter
Kelly Berwin

• (Did not know about the proposal. “I don’t watch the news.” (Then informed about the proposal) Truly and honestly, they’re going to spend that much on a performing-arts centre? Why don’t they take that money and deal with the homelessness, the crime, the schools, the kids? Because everyone’s broke in town. Everyone’s homeless. There’s no housing. That money could be used elsewhere. I’m all for art, but there’s other things you can spend it on.”
— Kelly Berwin, 34, Brocklehurst resident

PAC streeter
Doug Roche

• “I know that they want the city to pay $48 million toward it. I know that there’s only 70 parking spots on it. Basically, I know that some of the Fawcetts are funding part of it. I don’t agree with it. I think that it’s too much money for the city to be borrowing. I think if people want to have something like that for a small part of the community, that they should be funding it themselves. There are families in town that are very wealthy that can finance it through their businesses or through their charitable arms. They’re just going to be moving their money from the sports centre to that, where the sports centre is supported for a lot of people, not a few people. The people that mostly are going to use this theatre financially have fairly deep pockets. There’s a lot of people who use the Trans Canada Centre who are financially not very well off, really. If you look at it, I just think there are better ways to spend our money. You look at things like McArthur Island, there’s things they could do to add more events there, so it’s a year-round facility. Not just the ice rinks. but indoor basketball or indoor sports, things that are in that area, this side, so that the people in this area can walk to it, rather than have to get downtown and back. An event that sells out, you’re going to have 600 cars downtown. You’re not going to have 600 people on the buses coming to an event. So now you’ve got to find 600 parking spots. If you have 70 [underground parking spots], now you’re going to have the staff of the symphony, the people who work within the symphony use those parking spots because they get there first. Really, you’re not getting any spots or very few. I voted no on the first one and I’ll vote no on this one.”
— Doug Roche, 66, North Kamloops resident

PAC streeter
Dulce Landin

• “Nothing. (Then informed about the proposal) I feel like Kamloops needs more stuff to do and art is a good thing. If it’s in favour of that, I think I would be in favour of that. There’s not really things. I’m not from Kamloops, I’m not from Canada (she is from Colima, Mexico). I feel like, comparing with what we have in my country, there’s more cultural activities there. That’s the funny thing, I’m from a city that’s kind of the same size here, but we have, like, more stuff going on there.”
— Dulce Landin, 29, North Kamloops resident


PAC streeter
Dave Snidal

• (Did not know about proposal) "I don’t know why they had a referendum and now they’re having another one. I heard that they keep saying that somebody’s putting all this money into it and that, well, maybe it’ll be different than the last, but I’m one of these guys that when you have a referendum, go by what it says and then do it. Don’t keep doing it until they get what they want. One way or another, if it’s good for the town, it’s good for me, but I’ll probably never go to it. That’s the part that I don’t like — everything downtown. They keep building crap and they wonder why people don’t get there. I said, well how are they supposed to get there? Come in by helicopter? You’ve got no place to park.”
— Dave Snidal, 76, Batchelor Heights resident

PAC streeter
Penny Buckman

• “Only that there’s a family in town that’s put a lot of money down and we have to have another referendum. Hopefully, that goes through. I have a yearly pass to the theatre and I love arts and I have children who played in orchestras. We go to other places and they have beautiful places. Like Vernon, which is small town and they built something that does very well. Sometimes we don’t get things here we should. Sitting in Sagebrush and trying to watch the Russian ballet. It’s unbelievable what we do in Sagebrush, with an old theatre. They’re amazing, the productions they put on in little theatres. Then I’ve been to the one in Sandman [Centre] and the acoustics aren’t always so great. It doesn’t have the same environment and we’re hockey fans, too. We would just like to balance the place out. We’ve lived here 40 years now and seen Kamloops grow. That’s one area that hasn’t. When we wait, it costs more every time.”
— Penny Buckman, 75, North Kamloops resident

PAC streeter
Nanatte Corbin

• (Did not know about the proposal, then informed about it) “That would be good to improve Kamloops so we can get the stuff they have in Kelowna, like all the stores, music and movies. Remember Zellers used to be at the North Shore and then they moved up top? Gone. They didn’t last long because Walmart used to be there, K-Mart used to be there. It’s much better to go downtown because it’s downtown … I just love downtown because I go downtown, get some donairs. Downtown is there. It’s the main thing.”
— Nanatte Corbin, 71, Brocklehurst resident


PAC streeter
Don McLaughlin

• “I know that they’re looking for, I think, $45 million and that Kelson is donating a chunk of land. It’s significantly less expensive than the first proposal a few years ago, which I was opposed to. I’m not on this one. I think we need a performing-arts centre. The only complaint I have is why aren’t we trying to raise funds the way Royal Inland Hospital group does and stuff like that? Even the Westsyde Neighbourhood Association raises funds for small projects. That one, I’m sure corporations could be strong-armed. That’s the only complaint I’ve got. I think they could make it even less expensive for the taxpayers. I think, in principle, I will support it. I’d like to see more details. It’s not ironed out. That was the problem with the last project, too. I was in project management when I was in the army and I know you just don’t do that. You want all your T’s crossed. First question I ask, ‘Why is everyone fixated on the downtown?’ If we’re talking about the need for a performing-arts centre, not revitalizing downtown, then it shouldn’t matter where it goes, but that’s the kind of questions I was asking back then and I wasn’t getting any answers. I’d just like to see a proper analysis done. I just know there are people who’ve got downtown Kamloops fixated in their minds. Downtowns are changing. Everybody wants parking lots, but we’re getting away from cars or they’re going to be autonomous and park themselves somewhere five miles out in the sticks.”
— Don McLaughlin, 71, Westsyde resident

PAC streeter
John McIntosh

• “Just what I’ve seen in the newspapers. It’s time we had something, especially in that site downtown. Unfortunately, there’s no parking associated with it, which is a big mistake. Anyway, we get what we get. The original project of three or four years ago, which was defeated, I was sorry. I understand people don’t like paying for the project, but one thing seems to be missed. There’s a lot of people who would like to go to those kinds of concerts, et cetera, but are elderly and they cannot, wheelchairs, et cetera. You’re not going to walk blocks. Ideally, they should have a place for parking underneath the site, with a bus coming in, some proper transit location right there at the site, in front. There’s more to life than team sports. They need to start looking at population interests and trying to help the population do other things.”
— John McIntosh, 78, Westsyde resident

PAC streeter
Carmen Yanchuk

• “Just that it’s moving forward and I think that it’s going to be a really good thing for Kamloops and I hope that it goes ahead. I think it’s going to draw lots of new venues to Kamloops and we can get higher quality productions. It would be great. We just need to figure out the parking. It all depends what they come out with. I haven’t seen the full draft. We’re definitely going to need parking because downtown parking is an issue. I haven’t seen a whole lot yet, exactly what’s come out. But it’s something I’m totally in favour of.”
— Carmen Yanchuk, 55, Westsyde resident


PAC streeter
Nicole Gregor

• “I read some in the newspaper. I haven’t listened to the radio or anything. I know that they keep making the proposal and then they have to go back and redraft it. We had that referendum, didn’t we? We need it. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. I don’t know enough about the new proposal to say if it meets our needs or not. We are a growing town. We’re getting a lot more people. We’re a hub community, right? There’s a lot of people who come from outside. Having a central location that actually is geared — the sports stadium isn’t — one that is actually geared for performing arts, it can only benefit the community in the long run. I’m also not just in favour of the performing arts. I think we need another arts centre that’s solely weaving, tile work, all the other different arts. I was in Abbotsford and they have a big arts centre there, too. It’s community. We want to get people into the community and we want people to think of this as their community, their home and invest into it. We need these things because this is what people want.”
— Nicole Gregor, 48, Brocklehurst resident

PAC streeter
Bailey Henry

• “I’ve heard that it’s in the works. We’re thinking about getting one — downtown, I believe? I think it’s a great idea. It will bring in more artists, more entertainment into Kamloops. I think a venue like that would be useful, for sure.”
— Bailey Henry, 21, Aberdeen resident

PAC streeter
Sarah Roy

• “I don’t know much about it, but I think we should support a performing-arts centre. I just know we’re voting to build another one or something like that. I like going to plays and stuff. Something else that we can focus on, too, put money towards, build that part of the economy. It is something that we should support.”
— Sarah Roy, 38, downtown resident


Arts centre debate in the flesh — and offline

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