Many issues discussed at arts centre meeting in Kamloops

Voters will go to the polls on April 4 to decide whether they will give the city approval to borrow up to $45 million to be used toward the cost of the estimated $70-million Kamloops Centre for the Arts, downtown at Seymour and Fourth

Thursday’s information meeting on the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts also included discussion on parking, communications, possible design changes and the future of Sagebrush Theatre.

The session was hosted by the Sagebrush Neighbourhood Association, which has not taken a stance on the project and provided a platform for the Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society to discuss the proposed three-theatre facility in downtown Kamloops.

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About 60 people, including residents, city staff and councillors, attended the two-hour town hall-style event. KCA Society director Tyson Andrykew said a major difference between the new arts centre proposal and failed 2015 project is support from the arts community, namely communication with some 70 arts and culture groups in Kamloops, to ensure the building will benefit most user groups.

“We’re taxpayers, just like you,” Andrykew said of the society’s volunteers. “We want to make sure that this centre is ultimately what is best for most concerned and we want to make sure that we’re getting our money’s worth.”

To that end, the society is still looking for feedback. Andrykew said that while some elements of the project, such as the location, are set in stone due to significant investment already put into the property by the city, design of the building could ultimately change.

The design now at what is called the “class D estimate” conceptual stage. The final design will not be fleshed out until after the April 4 referendum (design costs were included in the project’s overall budget). The society has heard, for example, that the size of the blackbox theatre, may need to be increased, based on feedback received,

“The referendum question is: Do you want the city to borrow up to $45 million for the construction for the Kamloops Centre for the Arts. … It’s not, you know, what colour do you want the carpets to be? Or what size do you want the theatres to be,” Andrykew said.

Design could also change depending on the outcome of fundraising efforts.

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The proposed $70-million project includes up to $45 million in funding from the city and at minimum $22 million in fundraising. The goal is to raise more money and lessen the city’s required borrowing. One challenged identified, however, is competing for dollars in the community amidst other fundraising initiatives. Royal Inland Hospital and Thompson Rivers University are also in the middle of significant fundraising campaigns and non-profits in town have had their hands out, stretched as a result of United Way funding that has been pulled back.

If fundraising falls short, KCA Society president Norm Daley said, the scope of the project “would have to change.” Project supporter Tom Rankin, however, stressed that he wants a high-quality facility and asked: “How low are you willing to go?”

The society said design changes will be assessed based on the dollars available, with the overall project objectives in mind. Daley said the society is “optimistic” about fundraising, which will include grant funding from upper levels of government. However, he said, the city’s funding needs to be approved via the referendum before the society can go to donors and ask for money.

Asked what will happen to Sagebrush Theatre in the future, the society said the Kamloops-Thompson school district has indicated a desire to take over the facility on a full-time basis. The society will be meeting with the school district’s board of education in the coming weeks

Meanwhile, undecided voter Frank Dwyer was at the meeting and expressed concerns about money that will be needed in the future to address climate change, the potential to over-estimate arts centre revenues and under-estimate operating costs, trending changes to the music industry, arts centre architecture that could make the building obsolete, a lack of pedestrian safety and downtown parking issues.

Coun. Mike O’Reilly attended the session and said the main concern he hears from residents is that of parking. He maintained the city has sufficient stalls and is awaiting the city’s downtown parking management plan to be completed.

“It’s trying to manage those spots better and working with the private landowners,” O’Reilly said.

The Kamloops Centre for the Arts Society will be ramping up meetings with neighbourhoods, community groups and residents in the coming weeks. A handful of information sessions have already occurred, beginning in mid-November before breaking for the holidays and restarting last week.

“We want to get in front of as many people as possible,” Andrykew said.

The society continues to sign up residents for memberships in support of the project. To date, it has had more than 4,500 people join. It is also seeking volunteers. To become a member, volunteer or read the business case for the project, go online to https://kamloopscentreforthearts.ca/.

The city plans to host its own information sessions on the project, possibly in February.

© Kamloops This Week

 


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