Kamloops council sees 'groundswell' of support for ambitious capital project plan

Support for Build Kamloops?

A Kamloops councillor says he’s seeing a “groundswell” of support for the city’s ambitious plan involving the development of new arts and culture, sports and recreation facilities — including a positive meeting with a provincial minister.

Coun. Kelly Hall led a discussion with Lana Popham, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Thursday, talking about the city's Build Kamloops program, which aims to build a number of big-ticket capital projects in the coming years.

Hall said it was primarily an information session, but he also advised the minister the city is looking for partnerships with federal and provincial governments — as well as the private sector — to support the program.

He said the discussion with Popham was “very positive.”

“I think they understand if they want to see us continue to do the Tournament Capital of Canada [program], I think they'll come to the table with support and help us grow the facilities,” Hall said.

Hall said council discussed the need for development in Kamloops, especially as the community has outgrown its recreation facilities. He said if the city wants to continue attracting young families and professionals, these amenities will need to keep up.

Hall said they also advised the minister that as facilities are built, the city will seek to do so together with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc.

“They're going to be a part of our opportunities — as they should be,” Hall said.

He told Castanet Kamloops the Build Kamloops program is already attracting attention from potential partners outside of the provincial government, including major corporations.

“There is a bit of a groundswell, and I’m really excited about that,” he said.

Hall said the funding the city can get from federal or provincial sources will offset any kind of tax increase needed to fund facility construction. He added Kamloops residents should understand these amenities won’t be built all at once.

“They will need to be prioritized,” Hall said. “Is it the Performing Arts Centre that leads the way? Probably — but also let’s talk about the ice rinks, let’s talk about the other facilities.”

Coun. Stephen Karpuk said council received some positive feedback and “genuine interest” from the minister and her staff about Build Kamloops.

“We're really really happy. It was a group effort, the team was was very well put together, and I think our message was well received,” Karpuk said.

The councillor said more arts and culture amenities will help drive tourism. Visitors to Kamloops — like those who roll through town on the Rocky Mountain rail tours — should have more reasons to extend their stay.

“Maybe it's a downtown community Performing Arts Center, or other things. We need to have those amenities,” Karpuk said.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter said council was met with a “very warm reception” by the minister.

Popham and her staff were in Kamloops for the North American Indigenous Games bid, and have an understanding of what the city needs to be able to accommodate future large-scale events.

Kamloops was in competition with Calgary for the North American Indigenous Games bid, and Cowtown won — something Neustaeter said came down, in part, to the need for more accommodations in Kamloops.

“As we build these recreational facilities, we also have in mind the larger growth strategy for Kamloops. So we require hotels that can also support those things,” Neustaeter said.

Hall said the next step for the Build Kamloops program is to start up the four working groups which will involve members of the community and help drive the initiative. The call for volunteers has generated community interest, and applications are open until 4 p.m. on Friday.

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