These days, false information can spread faster than the curtain falls at a Western Canada Theatre performance. As such, Kamloops city council has indicated a need to quell misinformation in advance of an April 4 referendum to borrow up to $45 million to build the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts.
Leading up to the referendum, Kamloops This Week will fact check online comments and reader queries to help set the record straight.
This is the second instalment. The first fact checker article can be read by clicking here.
If you have a claim related to Kamloops Centre for the Arts you would like checked, email email@example.com.
It appears some Kamloops residents are wondering how the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts will be used and how similar facilities function throughout the region. Readers have inquired whether the city has a large enough population to sustain such a facility and others have expressed concern over shows performed to empty seats at Sandman Centre.
Therefore, KTW’s Arts Centre Fact Checker is looking at “usage.” We posed questions to the city about how the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts will be used and by whom? Has the city researched similar venues in other communities? Which acts have bypassed Kamloops in the past, where have those shows gone and why? What acts does the city hope to draw via Kamloops Centre for the Arts?
Q: How would Kamloops Centre for the Arts be used and by whom?
A: The Kamloops Centre for the Arts would be available for a wide variety of community groups, schools, local and visiting performers, Western Canada Theatre (WCT), Kamloops Symphony (KSO) and more than 70 organized arts and culture groups in Kamloops. In addition, it could be used for graduations and convocations, civic events and celebrations, awards ceremonies, speakers series, comedy shows and a wide variety of local and visiting performances. These events would draw customers to the many hotels and restaurants in the city and provide economic and employment opportunities for people living in Kamloops. The annex building — donated by Ron Fawcett — would house the administrative offices for the WCT and KSO, as well as offer significant rehearsal and meeting space to be used by many groups within the community.
Q: Has the city researched similar venues in other communities? If so, how are they used? Are any statistics available to explain usage at these venues?
A: KPMG conducted comparisons of similar-size venues in other communities across Canada to help inform the business case for Kamloops Centre for the Arts.
Q: Does the city have any statistics specifically explaining overcapacity at Sagebrush Theatre and Sandman Centre?
A: When the theatre was built, an arrangement was made for Western Canada Theatre to assume the day-to-day management of the theatre on behalf of School District 73 and the community. While the city does not manage the bookings for Sagebrush Theatre, we do have a good understanding of the pent-up demand. More than 200 days are booked each year between the school district and WCT, with the Kamloops Symphony and the Kamloops Festival of the Arts utilizing approximately 45 additional dates, leaving very few dates for community and commercial shows. We have posted this response to the city Let’s Talk section online at kamloops.ca.
Q: The city has said the project has been prioritized, due to acts that have previously bypassed Kamloops. What shows have been turned away because of our current lack of a suitable or available venue space? How often do acts bypass Kamloops? Was it because Sagebrush Theatre was closed for much of 2019?
A: It is difficult to quantify the number of opportunities Kamloops has missed due to a lack of appropriate venue space. What we do know is that Kamloops is uniquely positioned in the province to host productions that currently pass through Kamloops’ highways as they tour through Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Concerts, theatre productions, comedy shows and speakers series are examples of some of the touring events the Kamloops Centre for the Arts could accommodate. The city is unable to disclose names or details of potential acts unless authorized by the performer. This also applies to acts that do not choose to stop in Kamloops. The feedback we receive is that acts will bypass Kamloops for more adequately sized venues for their performances, which is typically something between what Sagebrush Theatre and Sandman Centre can offer, or significantly larger than Sandman Centre. In addition, touring acts often require several available dates in succession as they build out their tour schedule. Sagebrush Theatre has very limited availability and Sandman Centre is primarily home to a WHL team whose schedule dictates the facility’s availability.
Q: If big names play arenas in Kelowna and Penticton (for example, Jerry Seinfeld played Prospera Place in Kelowna), does the venue really make a difference?
A: Big names or touring groups understand their market and expected ticket sales and want to perform in appropriately sized spaces. For example, if an artist’s niche is to perform to an audience of 1,200 to 1,500 people, they are not inclined to perform in a venue that seats 2,200 to 2,500, as it gives the appearance they were not successful in that market and it alters the experience that they are hoping to give their audience. Similarly, artists that have been performing and selling in venues with 10,000-plus seats do not choose venues with less than 5,000 seats, as they would have to charge a significantly higher ticket price to cover their production costs with a limited number of seats, even if the performance is sold out.
Q: If Kamloops doesn’t support some shows at Sandman Centre, why build this facility?
A: Events at Sandman Centre are typically very well supported. Often when performances come to Kamloops, their only venue option is Sandman Centre; however, not every performer aims to sell out a 5,000-seat arena when they tour. Given the limitations of transforming a hockey arena into a performance venue, the audience may look undersold even though the performers ticket sales objectives are met or exceeded. The 1,200-seat theatre in the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts would provide an appropriately sized performance venue for these types of shows.
Q: What big names and how many acts would perform at a venue with 1,200 seats?
A: The Canadian Tenors and the Barenaked Ladies are two examples of acts that would prefer the Kamloops Centre for the Arts over Sandman Centre. Typically, any performance in Sandman Centre where the stage is set up to the west of the score clock would be better suited to a 1,200-seat theatre than a converted hockey arena.
Q: Are there enough people in Kamloops to sustain Kamloops Centre for the Arts?
A: Kamplan, the city’s Official Community Plan, estimates Kamloops will reach a population of approximately 120,000 by 2039. Kamloops already has more than 70 organized arts and culture groups and saw more than 3,800 children and youth register in arts and culture programs in 2019. The Kamloops Centre for the Arts would provide a venue for these groups, as well as many civic uses.
Q: Is the city relying on tourism to support Kamloops Centre for the Arts? If so, how many tourists currently travel for events at Sagebrush Theatre?
A: While the Kamloops Centre for the Arts is not dependent on tourism dollars, it would provide an excellent opportunity to build programs that support tourism and expand on what Kamloops has to offer visitors. In addition, the facility would allow us to host a variety of touring performances that do not currently stop in Kamloops and could attract audiences from out of town.
Q: Will the city livestream performances and ensure the facility could include Esports, which are increasingly popular?
A: The Kamloops Centre for the Arts would have the capability to livestream; however, there may be contractual situations that exist with some performers.