Editorial: The time for a PAC is now, Kamloops

Earlier this week, surrounded by a group of supporters on the steps of city hall, Ron Fawcett told reporters why he was willing to contribute millions of dollars and untold time toward a resurrected performing-arts-centre proposal: his kids and grandchildren.

The successful businessman and local philanthropist, who with wife Rae deserves praise for donating to numerous Kamloops causes, had moments earlier described to city council and an unprecedented number of supporters an awe-inspiring vision to put the city on the map for more than sports. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the downtown centre would have three theatres, rehearsal halls a cafe and outdoor seating space.

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More than a building, the centre would house and grow local arts groups, draw acts currently bypassing the city, improve livability and revitalize downtown.

(It would also flow nicely with city plans for nearby pedestrian plazas.)

It is quite the vision — and one that comes with a hefty $70-million price tag.

Price was a sticking point during the 2015 PAC referendum, which resulted in a $91-million performing arts centre proposal quashed by a 54- to 46-per-cent vote. A so-called “Performing Arts Centre Not Yet” group emerged, led by former councillor Nelly Dever, campaigning for a cheaper option and alternative funding.

That group is so far mum on the new proposal — and let’s hope the negative Nellys stay that way. Fawcett’s PAC is $21 million less than the previous proposal and comes with a generous $8 million to $10 million private contribution in the plans and Telus annex building. In addition, city staff and councillors are already discussing creative ways to decrease the burden for taxpayers.

Some costs will, in one way or another, inevitably fall onto residents — as they always do when nice things are involved.

But the time for a PAC is now. The city is growing. Thompson Rivers University continues expanding and young families are finding Kamloops affordable over the Lower Mainland.

The city needs to transition beyond its small-town persona — past immediate potholes and snow clearing — and look toward the future.

© Kamloops This Week

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