Longtime proponents of a performing arts centre for Salmon Arm came to council to inquire about available properties.
Cilla Budda spoke Oct. 12 on behalf of the Shuswap Society for the Arts and Culture, which wants to create what she described as a multi-functional, state-of-the-art performing arts centre.
She said the project could not proceed unless it’s on city property.
“We have researched 17 potential building sites in Salmon Arm and there are only two that would be satisfactory for the needs of a performing arts centre, as it would require at least 0.9 hectares (2.2 acres),” she said.
One of the parcels is west of the recreation centre, the former Mino’s restaurant property. The other is a five-acre parcel between the Downtown Activity Centre (DAC) and Third Street SW, sometimes called the Safeway soccer fields.
She said in order for the society to sign up partners and complete a business plan, it needs to know if the parcels have been committed to other uses by the city. If either is available, she said the group would like a one-year right of first refusal for its use. If the properties are already committed, she asked if there are others of suitable size and location.
Coun. Sylvia Lindgren said the school district has proposed an elementary school adjacent to the land Budda mentioned by the DAC. She doesn’t see a performing arts centre as a conflict there given that she would like to see the area as a downtown hub for the community.
Council brought up issues to consider such as the society teaming up with another organization rather than attempting to run a standalone facility. Coun. Debbie Cannon said while she loves the idea of a performing arts centre, she thinks partnerships are a necessity. She pointed to Lake Country, which has a facility created in concert with the school district.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond, chair of the city’s cultural master plan task force, noted that with COVID-19, a number of facilities won’t be filled to capacity for some time.
Budda said plans for a performing arts centre are for 600 seats, with 400 on the floor and 200 in a balcony that could be left unfinished until needed. She said the existing 450-seat community centre is filled easily when something popular is on.
Coun. Tim Lavery said he appreciates the tenacity of the society. He referred to the master plan consultant who he said pointed out that demand has shifted to smaller venues with increased capacity and abilities.
Budda said Salmon Arm needs a bigger venue, not smaller, with Shuswap Theatre seating 155 and the Salmar Classic 290. She said First United church is lovely, but is also restricted.
Kamloops can seat 790 in Sagebrush Theatre but is going to build something bigger, she said. Vernon can also seat 790 and Kelowna is looking at more capacity. Budda said she’s been asked before for a venue that can seat 400 to 500.
“I don’t feel we should have to leave town to go and see things, especially when I’m contacted personally to bring in different things that come through from Vancouver or Calgary.”
Lavery said he thinks more work needs to be done, such as the city having a vision for the downtown and the society having a detailed business plan. He said right now such a centre is not high on the priority list.
Flynn agreed, noting that current requests to the city include a new indoor soccer facility, an all-weather soccer field, a running track and replacement of the pool and gym.
“I personally would put all of those ahead of this in our prioritization,” he said, adding that a performing arts centre might be at the top 10 years from now.
Wallace Richmond acknowledged that the group has been working hard for years to promote a centre. She also noted that the city has about 1,000 seats now, although not all in the same place, and most are empty.
She said everyone would like a performing arts centre, but the real question needs to be, what are people prepared to spend in order to get one.
She said a fair process would have to be followed for land to be leased at no cost to an organization, and the city has a long-term plan for most of the land it owns. In order to say yes, she said there would have to be wide consensus in the arts and cuture that the facility’s capacity could be met, which she doesn’t think is possible now, and a stringent feasibility plan so taxpayers would know what they could expect to pay.
Mayor Alan Harrison concluded by saying Budda has given council things to think about and he hopes council has also given society members something to think about.
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