Letter: Tourism Kelowna’s $3.5 million better spent on a Y

A Y could be built on the land of the current RCMP building…rooms could rent for $100 to $150 per week.

To the editor:

With so many room tax dollars floating around, I have an alternative proposal (appropriate through exception by Municipal, Regional and District Tax rules, formerly Hotel Room Tax) for their use.

Background. In the mid-1960s, when I was 19 years old and somewhat lost, I took a year off school and headed west to Vancouver, of course. With very little money and no job prospects I found myself welcomed by the central YMCA, where for $17 a week I had a room and access to all the facilities. We mingled with members and became comfortable with everyone, from all professions and social strata.

Supporters of the Y philosophy were able to build such a facility in 1941, after a depression and during the war. If they could do it then, why can’t we put up a similar facility in downtown Kelowna to offer the transient youth and others a place where they too can enjoy and perhaps become grounded in a warm, comfortable, healthy and neighbourly environment.

I propose a facility similar to the Y in Rutland straddled by two towers of four to five floors of rooms, one for women and the other for men. It could be built on the land of the current RCMP building and would also provide fitness facilities for the ever-increasing downtown working and residential population. Rooms could rent for $100 to $150 per week, easily affordable on minimum wage, as they were in the mid-1960s.

As it did in the 1940s in Vancouver, philanthropy would play a large part in financing the building, along with government contributions, but I propose the use of the room tax money to help fund the annual operation costs. If Tourism Kelowna has $3.5 million to spend on a self-indulgent waterfront glass palace then they clearly do not need much of that money for tourism promotion, so we could redirect considerable funds annually to this project. This too would be money spent on tourism, just a different form and spread a little broader.

“We’ve been helping people reach their potential in Vancouver since the beginning” says the Vancouver Y. Let’s offer the same to people coming to Kelowna, enabling them to connect with, integrate into and ultimately contribute to our community. This is a golfing area so we understand why golf clubs offer deep discount memberships for junior and intermediate members, it’s for their anticipated future contribution as full members.

Don Henderson, Kelowna