By Marty Hastings
Kamloops This Week
A decision likely to be made this spring could lead to more than $15-million in development at the Tournament Capital Ranch in Rayleigh.
“What we’re waiting for is the Agricultural Land Commission,” said Gary Gray, president of the Kamloops Exhibition Association (KXA).
“The application is in front of them, that the city put there, to allow the lands currently there to be used not just for agricultural uses.”
Gray said the City of Kamloops and the KXA have a tentative agreement in place.
“We’re still negotiating with them, but part of the deal that we’ve reached was that we’re [the KXA] going to farm a piece of the site for the city, put it into agricultural production,” Gray said.
“With it, they’ve allocated about 14 hectares of land for a new KXA facility.”
The KXA has plans to erect two or three buildings on its new home site, facilities capable of holding trade, agricultural and rodeo events.
They won’t come cheap, with a price tag of between $15 and $20 million, according to Gray.
“Most of it we’re fundraising,” he said. “At this point, the city hasn’t really committed anything but to help us with operational costs. At this point, it will be somewhat of a private partnership with the city, based on us providing a lot of the funding.
“Part of what we’re doing hinges on the city’s plan for the site,” Gray added. “I know they’ve talked with the rugby club about joint-venturing a banquet-type facility.”
Jeff Putnam, the city’s parks and civic facilities manager, and Byron McCorkell, the city’s director of parks, recreation and cultural services, have been negotiating with the KXA.
In an email to KTW, Putnam said he could not provide details prior to the ALC’s decision.
The city’s parks planning and sustainability supervisor, Michael Doll, confirmed city representatives met with ALC members on Tuesday, Feb. 24, toured the site and answered questions.
“We are now waiting for them to reach a decision on our application, which we are hoping to have this spring,” Doll said.
“That decision will certainly help shape future plans for the Tournament Capital Ranch.”
Gray said Kamloops has been missing out on lucrative opportunities to host agricultural and rodeo events.
The KXA and its former landlord, the Tk’emlups Indian Band, became embroiled in a financial dispute and, late in 2011, the band took over the Mount Paul Industrial Park land, leaving the KXA without a home.
Gray gave examples of events that could be held in the Tournament Capital, including the Interior Logging Association convention, which moved to Vernon, and the Provincial Winter Fair, now held in Barriere.
“They’re telling us, ‘If you build it, we will come,’” Gray said. “We’ve had lots of interest from national events. The city’s missing out on multiple events because we don’t have the facilities to host it.”
The B.C. High School Rodeo Association (BCHSRA) is lobbying for the 2016 Canadian High School Rodeo finals.
“They’re in Nanton (Alta.) and their three-year term is up and it’s open for bids,” BCHSRA director Pat Kerr said. “It’s pie-in-the-sky at this point, but we would really like to host in July of 2016.”
The BCHSRA plans to hold the provincial high school rodeo championships at the ranch in June, either with the ALC’s blessing or with a temporary permit.
“The Kamloops and District High School Rodeo club has been going to Deadman Creek for eight years because we had nowhere to go,” Kerr said.
Concern has been expressed about more development at the TCR.
In a letter to the city, Kamloops resident Keith Corrigan wrote: “It concerns us that there may be an underlying agenda to turn this land over for rodeo and other heavy recreational use that could change the agricultural capacity profoundly.
“Further plans for a water park and so on have other ramifications not just to the land, but the watershed . . . draining into the North Thompson River from which we source our household water.”
What happens next depends on the ALC’s decision.
“We’re waiting on the ALC to give the city formal approval to go ahead,” Gray said.
“Once they have that, we’ll sign a multi-year lease.”