City overlooks need for performing arts facility

Councilor John Vassilaki has brought forward a proposal for an additional marina at the west end of Okanagan Lake to attract boating tourists.

There is a thing I call reverse tourism.

Many Penticton people must leave town and travel to Vernon, Kelowna, Vancouver, Spokane and Seattle to access what they wish to see and hear for their entertainment. The reason? Penticton does not have a good size performing arts facility to bring in artists and make it pay.

Granted, for big names like Andre Rieu and Daniel O’Donnell, you do indeed have to go to the large centres for their performances. Incidentally, for the valley, Wells Gray Tours alone had four buses and may have filled another for Andre Rieu concert last December. Two buses (and a great waiting list) are ready to go off to Calgary for Daniel O’Donnell shortly. They ran out of tour directors or they could have filled a third bus I am told.

In 2010, my husband and myself travelled to Vernon, Kelowna, Vancouver (twice) and Seattle to see performances that were not available in Penticton. And much as I believe in shopping locally, when you stay overnight in a motel, you bet your bottom dollar, you will go shopping too. That is dollars Penticton merchants are not getting.

At the Kelowna concert, counting noses in our section alone, I could see 21 Penticton people that we knew. How many other people we do not know, have to travel outside Penticton to find the entertainment they desire?

In my opinion, there are two infrastructure facilities more pressing than another marina for Penticton and district citizens, who live, work and pay taxes for facilities that should not benefit just tourists.

They are: Slow pitch ball fields, such as Summerland has, for the 20 to 50 age crowd. Whatever happened to the idea of approaching First Nations for baseball fields?

A Performing Arts Centre, which is not just for the over-60 crowd, as youngsters also need a place to perform and be seen such as the recent Concert Band Festival, held in the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, a poor substitute for a stage and tiered seating for viewing.

Small Duncan, B. C., population 5,037, has a performing arts centre. The 731-seat Cowichan Theatre supplies quality concerts to the 78,000 population of Duncan and district. That is just about the same size as our regional district population.

In my view, the reason why neither of these have happened is that only volunteers are the lobbyists, and all of our council are not particularly performance oriented. It is funny the sports fields are getting short shift though.

Donna Schellenberg