A local philanthropist is offering millions of dollars worth of land and design plans to resurrect a plan for a performing-arts centre in downtown Kamloops.
Council chambers were full on Tuesday afternoon when Ron Fawcett — who, with wife Rae, lives in Kamloops and made his money through building rentals in Western Canada — pitched a $70-million, 103,000-square-foot centre at the same location as an arts centre proposal that was rejected by voters three years ago.
The new proposal includes three theatres, with 1,200, 450 and 75 seats, respectively.
“This is my past,” Fawcett told reporters, citing his love of classical music. “It’s also my future. I’ve got five kids. They all live in Kamloops. I’ve got 14 grandchildren here. They need this in their community. They need this centre. The community needs this centre. …. It’s just give back, it’s just our time. We’re able to do it and we’re more than pleased to do it.”
The main building (83,000 square feet) would house a larger theatre and have a symphony shell to accommodate the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, while the medium-sized theatre would be used for Western Canada Theatre productions.
That theatre is smaller than the 680-seat Sagebrush Theatre, where the professional theatre company now hosts the majority of its shows, but WCT theatre director James MacDonald said the company could extend its runs.
MacDonald called the arts centre proposal exciting and noted WCT has been looking for a facility for administration and its theatre school, which are housed in Pavilion Theatre.
He said there is demand amid a growing community and noted record attendance at WCT’s recent production of Elf.
“The opportunities that we have to actually reach a new audience with the centre are massive,” he said.
Cost of the proposed centre is $70 million, an amount that is more than $20 million less than the rejected centre proposal of 2015.
Justin Dyck of CHP Architects said one of the mandates was to lower the cost, noting the $91-million cost of the 2015 project would be more than $100 million today.
Dyck, who has been involved in more than 100 theatre projects, called the new proposal “the right building, in the right location, at the right time, for the right price.”
Other highlights include a cafe and outdoor cafe area, rehearsal halls, meeting spaces and 20,000 square feet of office space in the Telus annex building on St. Paul Street, which has been purchased by the Fawcetts.
Absent is a controversial parkade, which was included in the last proposal.
The new proposal includes just 70 underground parking spaces. Fawcett told council underground parking is expensive.
“That’s a parking issue, not a performing-arts centre issue,” he said.
Also absent is details on how much of the cost taxpayers would be required to pay.
“That’s just not our ability to do this,” Fawcett told reporters. “I’ve looked at the other plan. We’re certainly going to be way less. I’m a big taxpayer in this town and we’re going to do that, but I don’t have the ability to figure that out. That has to be the city.”
The $70-million proposal includes $8 to $10 million donated by the Fawcett family for the Telus annex building. That building will include rehearsal halls and WCT and KSO office space.
The $70-million budget breakdown is as follows: $47.7 million for the main building, which would be located on the former Kamloops Daily News property at Seymour Street and Fourth Avenue, $6 million for design fees, $5.3 million for escalation contingency, $5.2 million for the theatre and general equipment, $3.2 million for fixtures, furniture and equipment, $2.1 million for construction oversight and $575,000 for grounds enhancement.
Fawcett said this proposal focused more on major user groups: Western Canada Theatre, Kamloops Symphony Orchestra and Kamloops Art Gallery, all of which were represented at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Fawcett said he began consulting with them a 18 months ago.
Mayor Ken Christian called the turnout in support of the project — which included a full council chambers and about 100 people overflowing into city hall’s executive room, in addition to more than 65 letters in support from individuals and businesses — “unprecedented.”
He thanked Fawcett and noted “how lucky we are to have a group, company as sophisticated as you calling Kamloops home. What you’ve shown us today is how strongly you believe in that home.”
Kamloops council voted unanimously to include a performing-arts centre proposal as an item during strategic planning, which will see council determine its four-year direction during sessions on Thursday and Friday.
In 2015, Kamloops voters rejected a performing arts centre proposal valued at $91 million, with 54 per cent of residents casting ballots opposed.