Tourism Kamloops CEO Beverley DeSantis is pushing the idea of a civic centre with a performing0arts centre.
DeSantis arrived in Kamloops after the defeated arts centre referendum in 2015 and said she heard from residents who could not picture themselves participating in the arts.
“You know, ‘We don’t go to the arts, we don’t participate, so this building we’re going to be paying for it and I’m not going to be using it,’” DeSantis said of the comments she heard. “By incorporating some sort of civic centre space, you can now start picture seeing your children’s graduation in there, maybe weddings, hockey banquets, sporting events. These sorts of things the whole community can see themselves in that building, even if you’re not a fan of the arts. That space, a multi-purpose space, can be used by our entire community.”
DeSantis said the city is in “desperate need” of larger conference facilities and is turning away events due to insufficient space.
Conferences are currently held at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre in Aberdeen and Sandman Centre downtown. DeSantis said the Coast has insufficient capacity and Sandman Centre is a sports facility. She said needed is space to host between 700 and 800 people.
One such event Tourism Kamloops had to turn down last fall was an annual comic con-style trade show.
“We’ve turned down, probably in the last year, 22 conferences, bidding on conferences, that we know of,” DeSantis said, noting such events instead head to Penticton or Kelowna. “The economic impact is over $20 million to the city.”
DeSantis said a solid business case could be built around a multi-use facility, which could share the same roof, walls and floors with performing-arts space, as a more cost-effective option for Kamloops residents. The concept fits well with a recent push by Tourism Kamloops to build out its shoulder season, from October to April.
DeSantis said conferences and conventions fit in that timeline. Business travellers tend to spend more while on the company dime, with Tourism Kamloops estimating they bring in $170 per person per day. However, DeSantis added, conference and convention travellers bring in four times that amount because the city is entertaining them full-time, with speakers, events and catering. Additionally, an influx of business travellers would increase traffic at Kamloops Airport.
“I think it is a basic solution and huge opportunity,” DeSantis said. “One will help the other sustain each other.”
DeSantis said conference space is usually wide-open flexible space that includes removable walls, roll-up carpet and breakout rooms.
She has met with the Fawcetts — proponents behind the proposed performing-arts centre at Seymour Street and Fourth Avenue downtown — city councillors and local Rotary clubs on the issue. Conference space is not currently included in the proposal for a performing-arts centre, which was presented to city council earlier this year.
“I’ve heard people say this really makes a lot of sense and it would help sustain both objectives,” DeSantis said.