Kamloops philanthropist presents city council with concept for $70-million performing arts centre

A new $70-million performing arts centre consisting of three theatres is being proposed for downtown Kamloops.

Local philanthropist Ron Fawcett laid out his vision for the project during Tuesday's (Jan. 8) council meeting.

The pitch comes more than three years after the city held a referendum on the issue. Fifty-four per cent of Kamloops residents rejected the idea of having such a facility (plus a parkade). At the time, Fawcett, president of Kelson Group, said he and his wife Rae would donate $5 million to the project if it was given the green light.

Fawcett222Ron Fawcett (left), president of Kelson Group, stands beside Kathy Humphreys, executive director of Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, outside Kamloops City Hall. (via Tereza Verenca)

About 18 months ago, Fawcett contacted city management and proposed to personally pay to have a new design done.

He reached out to Western Canada Theatre (WCT), Kamloops Symphony Orchestra (KSO) and the Kamloops Art Gallery, among other groups, to see what each organization needed, in terms of space. 

After months of consultation and design work, the result is a 103,000-square-foot performing arts centre at 393 Seymour St. While it's the same site as the original proposal, the new vision includes the adjacent Telus Annex building on St. Paul Street. The 20,000-square-foot Telus Annex building was purchased by the Fawcetts in early 2018 and is included in the proposal as an $8 million to $10 million donation. The Fawcetts would pay for everything to get the building up and running. 

"I've got five kids; they all live in Kamloops. I've got 14 grandchildren, and all but one live in Kamloops. They need this in their community," Fawcett said of the facility during a media scrum following his presentation to council. 

The main building will be home to three theatres: one with 1,200 seats, one with 450 seats and one with 75 to 100 seats.

"This is something Kamloops doesn't have," principal theatre consultant Robert Hamilton said of the big theatre. "Touring musicals or music acts like bands, who are maybe playing Calgary the night before and Vancouver the next night, instead of just driving by or stopping here and just not performing, maybe some of those shows will be able to use the 1,200-seater."

KSO would move their performances from the Sagebrush Theatre to the bigger theatre. The organization's offices and music school would also have a new permanent home, in the Telus Annex building.


Kathy Humphreys, executive director of KSO, believes Kamloops is a different community than three or four years ago.

"People are looking for all of the amenities that a great city has and I think this is a piece that's been missing," she said.

"I think people who are still thinking that it's not for them need to know it's for the community. If they don’t think they’re ever going to go to a country music performance or a rock band or a graduation ceremony or a speaker event, OK, that’s alright, but everyone in the community is going to be using that building for some purpose or another."

The medium-sized theatre will be home to most of WCT's productions and recitals, while the small theatre will replace the current Pavilion Theatre. (WCT would also move their offices from the Pavilion Theatre to the Telus Annex building.)

According to Fawcett's proposal, all three theatres would have separate entrances. They'd share the central lobby, something that could be used for art shows, cocktail parties and more. 

As for parking, there would be 70 stalls underground. Fawcett noted in his presentation there could be more parking if the city desired it.

The proposal also includes rehearsal halls, meeting areas, cafes and a ticket office.

When it comes to the $70.1-million price tag, it's broken down as follows:

  • Main building (includes the first level of underground parking): $47,682,800
  • Theatre and general equipment allowance: $5,200,000
  • Grounds enhancement: $575,000
  • Fixtures, furniture and equipment costs: $3,193,000
  • Design fees: $6,000,000
  • Escalation contingency 24 months 10 per cent: $5,346,000

Fawcett said the next step is for the city to decide if it wants to support the project. If everything goes according to plan, he said it would be at least three years before construction could start. 

When pressed about how much the project would cost taxpayers, Fawcett answered with "that has to be the city."

"We've given a vision. We're happy to have done that. They've got a big job to do, which is figuring out whether it's the right thing for taxpayers of this community," he said.

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