Penticton’s arenas and other facilities are aging, and according to city staff, solutions need to be found to deal with an expected $30 million of repairs and upgrades over the next decade.
Phase 2 of the Facilities Master Plan was approved by city council on March 21, including six studies, at a cost of $150,000, evaluating the future of Memorial Arena, City Hall, the Trade and Convention Centre, Adidas Sportsplex, the library/museum complex and the Penticton Art Gallery.
When the Phase 1 report was delivered in January, some of the suggested solutions were closing Memorial Arena, consolidating the library, museum, art gallery and city hall into the PTCC, and getting out of the convention business. With modifications, all of these suggestions are now going to be studied in Phase 2.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said no decisions have been made, but studying these options is necessary as the city figures out how to cope with the looming costs.
Penticton spends just over $1 million annually on facilities, a shortfall of between $2.7 to 3.5 million than what the Facilities Master Plan said is needed. The studies include an analysis of Memorial Arena, comparing the cost of keeping it running or tearing it down and building a new rink. Another part of the study will assess the usage of arenas in the community, and how many are needed.
Jakubeit said he doesn’t expect city hall operations will be relocated, but it might be possible to incorporate other city facilities, as an alternative to consolidating them at the PTCC. The study is to find efficiencies and not a definitive direction, Jakubeit added there will be engagement with the community as well. Coun. Judy Sentes asked for council to pause, to allow time to consult with the city’s own arts and culture committee, as well as the boards responsible for the various facilities, which she pointed out hadn’t been consulted prior to the introduction of the January report. “My concern is the speed with which this is moving forward,” said Sentes, adding that she was very concerned about the option to consolidate the library, museum and art gallery.“It created a lot of anxiety, concern and frustration within our community.”
The art gallery building is owned by the Art Gallery Society, not the city. Jakubeit explained that the society’s lease on the land runs out in 2019, and if it is not renewed, ownership of the building will transfer to the city, noting the value of the lease was just five dollars for the 20-year term.
The mayor said. in his personal opinion, moving the art gallery is low on the priority list, however, its functionality is not enhanced by its location.
“It is a building on the water that basically has no windows. It doesn’t need to be on the water, if you don’t have windows looking out to the water,” said Jakubeit. “We could free up that location to get something closer to market value than 20 cents a year.”
Art gallery curator Paul Crawford pointed out that the gallery does indeed have windows, looking out onto the Japanese Gardens. He added that the gallery also makes good use of its environs, with outdoor art programming in the summer. Moving it to the PTCC would also cut into their tourism potential, just one of the ways, he said, the gallery contributes to the community.
“Tourists come here to visit the gallery,” said Crawford, adding that a move would also cut down on casual visitors. “We do benefit from walk by traffic. Yes, if the library was there, we might benefit from the library traffic. But we wouldn’t be a destination for tourism as we are right now.”
Crawford said they are not opposed to considering moving the gallery, but it would have been nice to have been consulted first. Bregje Kozak, manager of facilities, said that over the past few weeks, she attended a board meeting for the library as well as the art gallery and given them a similar presentation to the one she gave to council.
“Therein lies my concern, they felt there was more of a telling of what was going to happen than an engagement,” said Sentes. “We need to engage them now. They feel they have much to offer. If there is anything this council has learned, we need to engage our community early.”
Jakubeit said that the suggestion the city get out of the convention business was just an option, but one that needed to be studied, as that economic sector was changing. Jakubeit admitted the options might create anxiety in the community, but having research get started on the options was a prudent decision.