Brief history of referenda in Kamloops

By Chad Klassen
October 29, 2015 - 11:59am Updated: November 13, 2015 - 11:41am
Brief history of referenda in Kamloops

Brief history of referenda in Kamloops WATCH: http://www.cfjctv.com/story.php?id=24558The short history of referenda in Kamloops has helped shape the city, one way or the other. Kamloops residents are now going to the polls in the city's first binding referendum in 12 years. The last referendum happened in 2003 for the Tournament Capital plan. In 1987, taxpayers were presented with a $50 million waterfront project that proposed a convention centre, sports coliseum, and arts museum all in one. There were also plans, fittingly, for a performing arts centre.

Posted by CFJC TV Kamloops on Thursday, October 29, 2015



Kamloops residents are going to the polls in the city's first binding referendum in 12 years. The question is, whether residents support the city borrowing $49 million to build a performing arts centre. The $90 million facility would boast a 1,200-seat theatre, a separate black box theatre, and 350 parking stalls downtown.

The last referendum happened in 2003 for the Tournament Capital plan. The city was asking to borrow for $37.6 million to build premier sports facilities. It required a 3% per cent tax increase over three years. 

"It's a tremendous opportunity to invest both in the present and the future of our community, both for lifestyle reasons and for economic development it's going to bring," said then Mayor Mel Rothenberger.

With a 42 per cent voter turnout, the Tournament Capital plan went ahead with 54% support from the community, with promises to build the TCC and other sports fields. 

"The Tournament Capital plan is a great example of a building people weren't 100% sure what it would mean to them," says current Mayor Peter Milobar. "A lot of people voted 'No' for it, and then they've used it ever since and said, 'I'm kind of embarassed I didn't vote Yes for this.'"

There's still roughly $28 million owed on that plan, but it has brought in millions back to the city in the last 12 years.

Not only has it provided an outlet for healthy living, but 110 sporting events come to Kamloops every year, and thanks to the Tournament Capital plan, the city was able to host the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games and welcomes B.C. Lions training camp every year.

The short history of referenda in Kamloops has helped shape the city, one way or the other. In 1987, taxpayers were presented with a $50 million waterfront project that proposed a convention centre, sports coliseum, and arts museum all in one. There were also plans, fittingly, for a performing arts centre. 

At the time, the city needed to borrow $10 million. But the referendum vote favoured the 'No' side, which gathered 50.6%, and the project didn't go ahead. 

"The only thing I can think of is, the people have indicated that there's a concern with the taxation level," said then Mayor John Dormer following the failed referendum in 1987.

Then Mayor John Dormer he says the failed vote was disappointing, but he doesn't think it had a grave impact on Kamloops' future. 

"I don't think it would've changed the psyche of Kamloops," said Dormer today. "I would've been a nice amenity. Did we need it? No. Did we want it? Yes. But by the same token, Kamloops is what it is and there's an awful lot of people that very much enjoy living here."

Dormer was also mayor a year later, when a proposal for the Riverside Coliseum came to a referendum in 1988. Only the sports arena was on the table. It passed, but cost taxpayers $23 million. Nonetheless, it brought to life what we now call the Sandman Centre that has brought many acts to Kamloops.

"It's meant a tremendous amount to Kamloops. It's created a whole new energy and thought-process," Dormer adds. "There have been a lot of sporting events held here, there's been a lot of cultural events, and conventions."

Now voters have to decide whether they want the city to borrow $49 million for this performing arts centre downtown.

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