The concept has been on the back burner for years now, but an arts group wants to reinvigorate the idea of a performing arts centre for Penticton.
“It has reached the point where it is reasonable to put it back on the agenda,” said Allan Markin, president of the South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society, speaking to Penticton City Council on Tuesday.
“We aren’t here today to ask for money. That may or may not come later.”
Markin gave a short background of SOPAC, which started in 1995, and the plans for a theatre centre. The design had originally included three theatres, but that was reduced to two after the theatre in the Shatford Centre opened. The main theatre would have 750 seats, which Markin explained is considered the cost-effective number. A second theatre would have 250 seats and be of a more flexible design.
Markin also reminded council the city had committed the lot at Ellis Street and Nanaimo Avenue for a performing arts centre facility. That remains the ideal location for a theatre, he said, and the society remains committed to the concept of a cultural precinct, stretching along the creek corridor between the performing arts centre and the Penticton Art Gallery.
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“We see it as a meaningful infrastructure investment, for at least the next half century,” said Markin, adding that the centre would enhance economic, social and cultural development of Penticton. “This is a vision we need to embrace for the longer term.”
Markin said SOPAC wanted three things from the city: a public expression of support to help them as they look for funding from senior levels of government and private donors; a five year guarantee the site would remain dedicated as they raised funds and finalized plans and city staff time to assist in the planning.
“I suspect without that site security, we won’t get very far with this,” said Markin.
With a $175-million infrastructure deficit facing the city, council members were reluctant to commit to the project.
Coun. Max Picton wanted to know whether the plan was to run the facility privately or turn it over to the city when complete.
“To open such a facility when we are looking at shutting the doors on others wouldn’t be a good idea,” said Picton. “My only hesitation is to offer encouragement to pursue a dead end.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit offered a little hope, suggesting the question of a new facility could be included in public discussions of the infrastructure deficit.
“The timing for expanding our infrastructure needs is something we can add to the mix,” said Jakubeit.
Jakubeit said the next step would be to arrange a meeting with city staff and possibly a workshop to flesh out the details.
“I would hate for this to fall through the cracks because we have other issues we are trying to deal with,” said Jakubeit.
Council voted to refer the matter to staff, to be brought back to council in 90 days.