The topic of a performing-arts centre will be back before Kamloops city council next week.
Local philanthropist Ron Fawcett is appearing as a delegate on Tuesday to apparently discuss “Kamloops Performing Arts Centre/A Vision of the Future” during council’s regular meeting.
It is believed he will present a proposal that includes a donation of land and a building downtown, to be used as a performing-arts centre. The lone additional information notes activities to date as “extensive community, cultural and design consultation.”
Ron and Rae Fawcett have donated to numerous causes in Kamloops, including Royal Inland Hospital, Thompson Rivers University and the BC Wildlife Park. In 2015, the Fawcetts pledged to contribute $5 million toward the $91-million performing-arts centre that was the subject of a referendum that year.
Kamloops residents voted down the proposal — by a margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent — which would have seen the arts centre rise at the corner of Seymour Street and Fourth Avenue, on the former Kamloops Daily News property. When the newspaper closed in 2014, parent company Glacier Media sold the land to the city for $4.8 million.
After the failed referendum, the city demolished the Daily News building and built a parking lot at that location.
The subject of a performing-arts centre was more recently brought up during the 2018 civic election campaign, in discussion related to the city’s new downtown plan and budget talks.
City culture manager Barb Berger told council in November that Kamloops continues to leave cultural events on the table due to lack of infrastructure. She likened having only Sagebrush Theatre — which is at capacity in part due to bookings by School District 73 — to a lone hockey rink in the city.
“We leave a tremendous amount on the table because we are situated so perfectly between the coast and Calgary or the coast and Edmonton,” Berger said. “Those tours have to stop. They have to stop somewhere and they would very happily put on a production that night to recoup their travel costs if they could.”
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said he does not know more than what was released in the council agenda on Friday morning, related to a performing-arts centre proposal.
“What I’ve said to the arts groups is that if there was going to be a resurrection of a performing-arts theatre kind of facility, that it would have to come from the arts community and it would have to be a supported, joint effort. We’re not going to do a Western Canada Theatre thing and a KSO thing and a new art gallery thing. It would have to be something that came all together. So, I take it, they have acted on those suggestions and that this is going to be that proposal. But I don’t know what they’re going to be proposing. It’s exciting, though.”
Christian said investments in the arts are positive for the economy and city.
“It also speaks to issues related to livability and the ability for Kamloops to attract some top marquee kinds of performances into our city, as well as have a place for the emerging artistic community in Kamloops to grow their craft,” he said.
He noted, however, a performing-arts centre won’t happen overnight.
“But the journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step, so I would take it this is that first step,” he said.
KTW is awaiting calls back from the Fawcett family.