September 30th, 2020

Final report on performing arts centre presented

By Jensen, Randy on September 16, 2020.

Dawn Leite, Allied Arts Council community relations manager and member of the performing arts centre advocacy group, speaks to reporters after a report to the Community Issues Committee on a new performing arts centre. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

Consultants AMS Planning and Research presented their final report to city council during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting on a new performing arts centre for downtown Lethbridge, but now council has to decide whether or not to go through with it.

“It has been a long process,” confirmed Coun. Mark Campbell on behalf of council’s performing arts centre steering committee, “and there has been a lot of community interaction.”

Campbell said there was a lot on the line for the future of the project with council considering a motion at next week’s regular meeting to cancel funding for the proposed performing arts centre within the current Capital Improvement Project, and have advocates for the project consider reapplying during the next four-year CIP funding cycle instead.

“What I think is important is we know we are not going to be shovel-ready,” Campbell explained. “This is a matter of getting a design and hoping down the road, in the next two, three or four years, that there will be more federal money, more provincial money, and we’ll be able to figure it out. To vote to discontinue it (in the current CIP) would put an end to the process, in my opinion.”

Allied Arts Council community relations manager and performing arts centre advocacy group member Dawn Leite agreed with Campbell, and emphasized the benefits of having a new state-of-the-art performing arts centre in Lethbridge.

“At this point we have now conducted three studies, all of which have echoed the same sentiment: that Lethbridge is in fact still in need of a performing arts centre,” she said. “The next steps would be for council to keep the project moving forward, and keep this project alive in the current CIP.”

“The Yates is fantastic,” Leite added. “We appreciate the renovations that have been created, but they still don’t meet some of those technical needs our theatre companies are looking for. The seating count is also significantly lower than what not only our performing community is looking for, but also our audiences. This traditional proscenium venue (we would build) is proposing 950 seats.”

Campbell acknowledged the financial difficulties the City is facing at the moment, and the massive capital investment city council has already made this year in its funding commitments to the new Exhibition Park.

But, he said, the performing arts centre would also be a legacy project that fulfils a demonstrated need in the community.

“I was thinking about this walking around Henderson Lake,” he said, “and thinking about the Exhibition, and thinking about all the things that have happened years ago, and how much foresight our forefathers had putting together things that are going to be valuable, not just to my generation, but our future generations. I think those are things I want to personally think about: what will be the legacy of this council moving forward?”

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