Kelowna Community Theatre has been empty since mid-March of 2020. (File photo)

Kelowna Community Theatre has been empty since mid-March of 2020. (File photo)

Kelowna to consult community on the feasibility of new performing arts centre

The centre will replace the Kelowna Community Theatre which has been open since 1962

The City of Kelowna will be consulting the community for their opinions on the feasibility of a new performing arts centre to replace the aging Kelowna Community Theatre (KCT).

The new performing arts centre was proposed as a new complex to replace the KCT to meet performers’ and audiences’ needs. It will offer more seating, spacious lobbies, better acoustics and modern technologies that will be essential for performers. The KCT, which has been open since 1962, will always be an iconic community staple but the diverse needs of local users need to be considered.

According to a staff report, the new centre will primarily serve the needs of the local cultural sector, with the needs of touring users being a secondary consideration. It will also offer flexible, multipurpose options to help maximize revenue and audience support.

“The community consultation process needs to occur to ensure there is a common vision and path moving forward,” said fundraising consultant Jeff Sodowsky during a council meeting on Monday, Nov. 22. “I believe that any city that wants to continue to nurture a healthy cultural ecology will need to determine what the needs of the community are.”

The project will come with a new set of challenges, however. The new performing arts centre is estimated to cost just over $75 million, according to the city staff report. The city budget is already constrained by existing projects identified in the 10-year Capital Plan, and government grants are highly competitive and extremely rare. City staff recommended taking a hybrid approach to raising funds for the new centre, where the city will work with an established external charity to collect and process contributions. Another option is the creation of a new charity specifically for the performing arts centre campaign.

“If you want a facility that continues to be civic-owned and civic-run, working with an external charity will be your best option. If you want to explore more opportunities for the centre and operated by another entity, it would require different fundraising efforts that make sense,” said Sodowsky.

The City of Kelowna will also need to consider transition strategies for artists and community members that rely on the KCT for performances and events. A clear, extended timeline for redevelopment will be necessary, along with developing an inventory of alternative spaces to meet the needs of performers and audiences.

The report highlighted the Island Stage in Waterfront Park as a potential opportunity for the city to deliver a “legacy” space.

Many city councillors agreed with the city staff report, highlighting the need for a better facility to serve the city’s performing artists. While the KCT will continue to be an iconic part of the city, the needs of artists and audiences are constantly evolving and changing. Yet, this will take some time since the project isn’t expected to be completed until 2025 or beyond.

“There is a huge appetite in our city for public engagement on this issue and for the need for a new KCT. I recognize that we have competing interests and a lot of things we want to do but it’s really important to note that this is on our radar. Kelowna deserves something super iconic but how we get there is yet to be determined,” said Coun. Mohini Singh.

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