A study, conducted for Citizens for a New PAC by theatre consultants Schick Shiner & Associates, has determined that a modern and versatile 1,600-seat performing arts space in the heart of Kelowna’s cultural district is a crucial element in meeting the Okanagan’s burgeoning demand for quality live entertainment. Read on for highlights of the Seating Capacity Analysis study. To access the full report, please click here.


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Capacity Study


A new Performing Arts Centre is planned for City of Kelowna’s downtown, to replace the aging Kelowna Community Theatre. The municipality has undertaken studies to determine the seating size, cost and suitability of a site for the future Centre. This study, commissioned by the Citizens for a New Performing Art Centre, builds on the previous research and offers an expanded scope for a regional venue, presenting a detailed assessment of ideal size, seating capacity, and projected capital cost for a new Centre.

This study determines that a larger Performing Arts Centre (PAC), boasting a capacity of 1,600 seats, is viable for Kelowna within the existing theatre site in the downtown cultural district. The projected capital cost is $83.7M, with no increase in the current theatre’s building footprint. Operated and marketed as a regional venue, a more significant Centre will meet the proposed benchmark for performing arts seats per population (12 seats/1,000 people).

Seating capacity is the most critical issue for the City of Kelowna to address, as set out in the 2018 Colliers report: City of Kelowna Performing Arts Centre: Market Demand, Facility Size and Site Suitability Study:

“…this issue must be addressed at the beginning of the planning process, where capacity setting will determine to a great extent the architectural style, theatrical form, capital costs, operating costs, audience development potential, and most importantly, the quality of the theatrical experience the community will receive.”

Kelowna is a vibrant and growing metropolitan centre with a projected population for the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) reaching 238,150 by 2028. The Kelowna CMA includes the City of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and Peachland – the core community audience for a new performing arts venue.

The research has shown that to meet the burgeoning cultural appetites of this region, local cultural venues would require a combined seating capacity of 2,260. A new Performing Arts Centre expanded to 1,600 seats, together with the existing venues – the Rotary Centre for the Arts (326 seats) in Kelowna and Creekside Theatre (272 seats) in Lake Country – approaches this benchmark.

This study reveals that the 2018 Colliers Suitability Study significantly underestimated the scope of population growth and demographic change in the Central Okanagan when it concluded that a 1,200-seat theatre, at a capital cost of $70.1M, would be an appropriate replacement for the aging Kelowna Community Theatre.

Population projections make it clear that a venue of that size would leave the region’s population with a shortfall of 460 seats, leaving a deficit to meet audience demand and making it more challenging to attract quality touring performance artists and shows.

There is no competition for a 1,600-seat theatre in the market area. Kelowna CMA has the right demographic for arts consumption and a tourism market that remains an untapped resource for theatre development. A new facility, boasting leading-edge acoustics and other technologies, would not only support the needs of local community arts groups but also attract higher profile performers and acts, which in turn are more marketable.

To ensure the success of a larger venue, the following conditions should be considered:

    • the Centre be society-operated under a presenter model: more than a rental house, the venue itself would present a varied programme of events and performances;
    • the Centre be operated as a regional venue, its market reach extending to Vernon in the north and Penticton in the south;
    • the venue presents high-quality, desirable entertainment that is aggressively marketed to the entire market area;
    • the operation develops a summer programme and a marketing strategy to attract a tourist and summer resident audience;
    • the main floor seating be not more than 800 seats, with a preference for a design that keep the main floor capacity to 650/700 seats; and
    • enable the closure of balconies as warranted to reduce staff costs.

For more information on Citizens for a New Performing Arts Centre, please contact us at [email protected]