In support of a performing arts centre

The “No” side in the Kamloops Performing Arts Centre debate needs to be fueled by more than cynicism and economic doomsay­ing for it to be taken seriously.

A performing arts centre in Kamloops has been a long time coming. In 2011, then-incumbent mayor Peter Milobar voiced his support for the centre, saying that he was hoping to get construct­ed started within three years. Obviously that didn’t happen, but project supporters have been persistent and we’re closer than ever to having a performing arts centre in town.

The closure of the Kam­loops Daily News provided an opportunity for the city: it pur­chased the lot in 2014 for $4.8 million. Other ideas floated around before the eventual decision to use at least some of the Kamloops Daily News lot, such as building the venue right here at TRU. As good as an idea that might have been, the downtown site is one the city has been eyeing all along.

Last year I spoke with BC Living Arts artistic director Alan Corbishley, who summed up the situation by saying there was a “venue crisis.” Judging by others I talked to for the same story (a class project), there’s evidence that’s true. Current venues are either too big or too small or otherwise unaccommodating.

If the business case is to be believed, the centre won’t just be good for performers and audiences alike – Kamloops itself stands to benefit with an annual economic impact of $11 million. But first, it’ll have to convince the taxpayers that it’s worth borrowing up to $49 million to undertake the $91- million project. That might be hard to do with something like a per­forming arts centre, which doesn’t exactly cater to all taxpayers.

Some of the opposition is quick to point out that Canada is cur­rently in a recession, and that now is no time to be borrowing money – but that seems like shortsighted thinking to me. For those the “Yes” campaign can’t lure in with a wider variety and frequency of perfor­mances, it should try to make a positive business case, instead. Reading through the methodology of the study released by the City of Kamloops, it appears as though the group did its homework. But as the cynics and “No” campaigners point out, these things can cost more than their initial budget. That might be the only valid “No” point I’ve read so far.

It seems hard to accept cynicism in the face of the group that put the report together, especially from those who weren’t involved in the process. I guess I can accept that a working group of proponents is all for spending money that isn’t (entirely) theirs, but surely they understood the responsibility to get it right and only have the best interests of the city and those in it in mind.