British Columbia

Kamloops to hold referendum for multi-million-dollar arts centre

Kamloops city council has voted to move forward on a referendum to build a new performing arts centre in its downtown core.

Residents voted against a previous referendum for an arts centre in 2015

Residents voted no to borrowing millions to build a Kamloops Performing Centre of Arts in 2015. This is a rendering of that proposal. (City of Kamloops)

Residents in Kamloops, B.C., will have a chance to vote for a new multi-million-dollar arts centre in the southern Interior city's downtown core.

On Tuesday afternoon, city council voted to put the proposal for the centre up for a referendum. 

The project will cost $70 million and the multi-building centre will feature three theatres. The main building will house the a 1,200-seat theatre and a 450-seat theatre. 

A smaller theatre space — with a capacity for 75 people — would provide a flexible space for smaller productions.

The proposal is supported by a real estate donation, and as much as $10 million from local philanthropist Ron Fawcett. The city says it will have to take on a $45 million loan to complete the project.

Previous referendum failed

It's the second time Kamloops has voted on the issue. In 2015, voters rejected a proposal for a new arts centre. 

Coun. Kathy Sinclair, former executive director of the Kamloops Arts Council and part of the 2015 arts centre campaign, says the current project is "significantly different" from the previous one.

Firstly, she says, it's a lot cheaper, with the previous proposal priced at $90 million. There will also be no increase to taxes for the capital amount of the project. 

"When you factor in the increases in inflation and capital costs, I think that we are left with something that is looking pretty good," Sinclair said.

She said city staff are currently working on messaging around the referendum to make sure voters have a clear understanding of the project. 

"We know that there are a number of people locally, and not even just art supporters, but people who will enter this building for graduation ceremonies, comedy shows, country music shows, all kinds of things," she said.

"This is a very much-needed facility."

With files from Radio West

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