Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fred Fedorak: Letter to City Council

To: Penticton City Council:

I have written letters to the editors of the two local papers, Herald and Advertiser in regard to the planned destruction of the Pen Hi auditorium and gymnasium. I have also sent a copy of the same letter to Council and School District 67. This note is to make you aware of this action on my part, and to also make a personal appeal to you to try and save these venues for the good of the community.

Because School District 67 is not interested in preserving the above buildings, I believe that the only way that they can be saved for community use, is for the City of Penticton to come to some form of arrangement with the School District to transfer those buildings to the City. Which, I realize that it also means the transfer of maintenance and upgrade costs.

I understand that you have a significant number of projects that are at the top of your priority list. We have two structurally sound buildings with the possibility of several years of usage that can never be replaced without significant overwhelming construction costs. Granted substantial money has to be made available to up grade the buildings so they can stand alone When they are destroyed, we will have asphalt to take their place, which translates into considerably more parking spaces which will be more than adequate for school usage. If we do not make a concentrated effort to conclude an accommodation with the School District, we could miss a great opportunity to prevent the loss of two very sound buildings. To me this does not make very good economic sense.

Before the Arts Council obtains the financing for their planned Arts Center, what building will they use for their needs? Would it not be prudent to keep the auditorium in use until such time as money becomes available? What is wrong with putting the new Arts Center in the same location as the present site of the auditorium? >From my perspective, if the building goes down, that group no longer has a suitable venue for current use.

Please consider what impact the loss of four venues, Pen HI Auditorium, Pen Hi South Gym, Pen HI North Gym and Nanaimo Hall will have on the community. With our growing and ageing population, demand for recreational and performing arts venues will increase not decrease in demand,

If financing is not available what is wrong with mothballing the sites until Council has the funds to upgrade and maintain them? It makes no sense to upgrade and save one site and not the other that is why I have combined my appeal to save both buildings.

Respectfully submitted

Fred Fedorak
Citizen of Penticton since 1959

Bruce Langford

The following letter was received from Bruce Langford, Head Coach of the Simon Fraser University Women's Basketball Team:


To City Council and Trustees of School District #67:

As the coach of Simon Fraser University, I want to make you aware of the importance of a valuable building in your community. One that for many reasons should be kept.

Trying to get funding for gyms is extremely difficult. As you know, they are expensive to build yet alone to acquire land for. Tearing down facilities that are off quality makes very little sense in the big picture. A better endeavour would be to recognize all the uses that a gym could be put and helping to find ways to facilitate them, The future of amateur sport is more and more moving to a club system where but use of public gums will increase greatly. Just look at the level of club volleyball and basketball in Ontario. They have both surpassed the school systems programs. Having a venue in your community is very valuable.

I have had the good fortune of working camps in Penticton for several years. The Pen High gym has been a key component of those camps. It is a quality facility with excellent ventilation, which is a key in the summer, and great site lines for people to observe games. Opening to the grass is so Penticton, a beautiful treed setting for a fitness centre.

How much farther ahead would be a community that could mix the new facility with the old one. The benefits are obvious. Programs that are unable to get gym time in the school system could jump at the opportunity and build lasting health, athletic and social benefits to your community.

Yours sincerely,

Bruce Langford
SFU Women’s BB Coach
Tel: 604/291-5394
Fax: 604/291.3425

Fred Fedorak: Save our North Gym

T.N. Fedorak,
February 25, 2007

Penticton City Council,
City of Penticton,
171 Main Street,
Penticton, B.C. V2A 5A9

Dear Sirs:



Time is drawing near when the community of Penticton will have three less recreational venues and one less performing arts venue. It was announced recently by school district 67, in the Penticton Herald, that no group has come forward with a plan to save the Pen Hi Auditorium. In that press release there was no reference to the Pen Hi North Gym, which is adjacent to that building.

- Pen Hi South Gym has been demolished.

- Pen Hi North Gym is scheduled for demolition.

- Pen Hi Auditorium is scheduled for demolition.

- Nanaimo Hall, which is a City of Penticton property, is scheduled for demolition as well.

What is going to replace the above buildings? With the exception of Pen Hi, which will receive a new gym, no replacement is planned for the others.

School District 67 has placed a date of March 31 for any group that is interested in presenting a plan for the auditorium.

A growing city population requires more recreational and performing spaces not less. It is widely accepted that physical activities and other active pursuits such as music and drama are very essential to a healthy life style both for the body and the mind. Which in turn helps reduce the stress on our health systems and the persons who pay the bills, the taxpayers.

School District #15 and recently #67 are to be commended for maintaining an excellent gymnasium as well as other District properties. Having been closely connected to the history of the gym since 1959, in various capacities as player, coach, teacher, summer camp operator, I have seen several improvements carried out to a very sound structure. Several hundreds of thousands of dollars were recently spent on its renovations. The North gym has always been maintained as a first class facility. In fact the school district can take great pride on how well they have been able manage all of their properties. In the thirty-four years that I have visited other high schools, we rank up there with the best. In the opinion of numerous visiting coaches it still ranks as one of the best high school gymnasiums in the province bar none. At present we have a treasure that will not be duplicated in the future.

Prior to 1948, when the present high school was constructed, the Scout Hall, which eventually was transferred to the school district, was the gymnasium. It was a very confined structure but did serve as the South Gym. After 1948 Pen Hi had the luxury of two gymnasiums, which allowed for a second teaching station up until its demise in 2005. Several secondary schools in the province have two official sized gyms on their properties, in a number of cases; they serve as shared entities between the school and the community.

It is a well-known fact that the policy of the Ministry of Education at this time does not provide operating funding for two gymnasiums. For the good of the community of Penticton and district, some form of cooperation and transfer of ownership has to occur between School District 67 and the City Of Penticton. The physical education classes at Pen Hi would continue to maintain two teaching stations as they still had prior to 2005. If the gym and auditorium are to be demolished, we are going to have one huge asphalt parking lot bordering Eckhardt Avenue.

Saving the auditorium also means saving the gym. The cost in saving two buildings is apparently slightly more that saving just one of the structures. When the new Arts Center is to be constructed, where is to be located? How about the present site of the Pen Hi Auditorium? In the meantime the present site, with minimal upgrades would do until the Arts group get their financing in order for a new center.

It seems to me a terrible waste of structures that have maybe twenty usable years left in them. With the destruction of those buildings, what structures are going to take their place? Concerned citizens should let their elected representatives know that they would like these buildings to remain standing and that the City of Penticton develop a plan and the financing to sustain those structures.

Respectfully submitted,

Fred Fedorak

Cc: School District No. 67
Editor, The Herald
Editor, The Western Advertiser

Geoff McKay: Accumulating Assets

The following letter is from Geoff McKay, a General Partner with Forstmann Little & Co., 1985 BC High School Athlete of the Year, and former captain of the Canadian Jr. National Basketball Team.

As a former Penticton resident with many friends and family still living in the community, I was surprised and dismayed to recently learn that plans are in place to demolish the Pen-Hi North Gym. I attended Pen-Hi for five years in the early 1980’s and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that I lived in that gym: countless hours playing basketball and volleyball, taking physical education classes, eating lunch every day in the stands. These experiences helped shape my life and the lives of many others, so I admittedly carry a sentimental view of the gym that makes it much more than four walls and a hardwood floor to me. However, I recognize that nostalgia (even if dressed up as “tradition” or “history”) can only be, at best, minor considerations in a decision such as this.

That said, I find it difficult to believe that the North Gym, even with an additional new facility being built, would not be a very valuable asset to the community. I understand it was recently upgraded, which would suggest it is not a “white elephant” that is dramatically outdated. If the city had to spend the capital to build this gym from scratch, would it be a priority? Undoubtedly not, but of course in this case that capital has already been expended; the issue is the operating costs. And, as someone who works as an investor on Wall Street, I assure you that it is the shrewd who salivate in situations where owners are willing or need to give up valuable assets because they cannot afford relatively modest operating costs. Fortunes have been built (and expanded) on exactly this premise. This situation is not perfectly analogous, but it seems to me that a city advertising itself as vibrant and growing would be seeking to accumulate rather than sacrifice valuable assets.

The problem is that unlike the operating costs, which are black and white, many of the benefits of a facility are hard to quantify. Said another way, they do not directly generate revenue. The organized activities that I derived so much benefit from – Lakers basketball, etc. – will always be a school priority and will be more than adequately covered by the new gym. However, there are dozens of other activities, both school and community-based, that are starved for gym time. The participants derive tremendous benefit from this. And how many articles have we read about the importance of exercise in relation to aging baby boomers, or juvenile obesity? Given that these are the people who get squeezed when gym time is scarce, isn’t this exactly the type of facility the community should be supporting?

Of course, the devil is in the details, and I confess I am not particularly familiar with many of those. However, it seems that at the very least the issue should be fully vetted by interested parties before a rash decision is made.

Michael Brydon: Delegating responsiblity to bulldozer drivers

The following was printed as a letter to the editor in the 06 March 2007 edition of the Penticton Herald:

What if, as Dodi Morrison asks in a recent column, Penticton cannot afford a new performing arts center? What if the $17M cost overrun for the South Okanagan Event Centre and increased spending for critical infrastructure (water, sewers) mean that the City of Penticton is unable to come up with its one-third share of a new $25M facility (even if the provincial and federal governments agree to foot the rest of the bill)? The decision for the local performing arts community then becomes whether to throw its support behind efforts to save the Pen-Hi auditorium or risk being left with no facility (other than the much-maligned Cleland Theatre). Little suspension of disbelief is required to imagine a three-act tragedy in which City Hall continues to make encouraging noises about a new performing arts centre, local arts groups stand by as bulldozers flatten the Pen-Hi auditorium, and, for one reason or another, City Hall’s vague commitment to a new facility never materializes in its capital budgets. Given the near certainty of continued pressure on the city’s financial resources, the performing arts community might want to consider hanging on to the Pen-Hi auditorium as a hedge against being left empty handed.

As some have already pointed out, a commitment to save the auditorium then raises the issue of Pen-Hi’s north gym. A good chunk of the estimated cost of converting the auditorium to a community facility arises from the need to sever its heating, water, and other services from the centralized facilities of the soon-to-be demolished school. Since the auditorium and gym are connected, the additional cost of including the gym in the conversion would be relatively small. The two buildings can thus be thought of as a package deal. Faced with the possibility of a bargain, the question is whether the auditorium and gym would create enough value in the community to justify the city’s costs of acquisition and conversion.

In the absence of rock-solid commitments by both city and provincial governments to a new performing arts facility, the community value of the Pen-Hi auditorium is bound to be high. The case for the gym, however, is less clear. Some in the community have a sentimental attachment to the gym. Others are less sentimental but think it is short-sighted and foolish to knock over a perfectly good building to make room for a parking lot, especially given the replacement cost of the building in question. The problem is that, to this point, no strong, unified voice in favor of saving the gym has emerged. The rebuilt Pen-Hi will include a massive new gym, so the school district cannot be expected to champion anything beyond its educational mandate. And additional gym space—bargain or no bargain—does not currently rank high on the City’s lists of capital spending priorities. However, we should recognize that fragmented support within the community is not the same as no support. Many small, diverse groups could benefit from community ownership of the gym. Perhaps, for example, adult basketball leagues would return to Penticton if more gym time was available in the evenings. And what about floor hockey, badminton, archery, martial arts, gymnastics, dance, and so on? It may be that these many small groups are, in aggregate, large enough to get the attention of local politicians.

The risk is that we might never find out. City Hall appears to have little time or stomach for the inter-jurisdictional negotiations required to bring an auditorium/gym proposal forward for a full public dialog. This is troubling since artistic and recreational facilities involve subtle tradeoffs between hard, tangible costs and soft, intangible benefits. It is not clear how a high-quality decision can be made without the full involvement of the community. In the worst case, the deadline for action on the gym will pass without careful and open consideration of its potential. All the important decisions will then be made by the driver of a bulldozer.