By Trevor Busch
While not yet an official go ahead for construction of a performing arts theatre and convention complex, town council has approved the preliminary plan for getting the project off the ground.
The recommended design is a multi-use arts facility and conference centre featuring a theatre for plays, lectures and presentations, the existing auditorium for banquets, large gatherings and display areas, break out rooms for conference groups and performing teams, and the large and small ice for conference display space.
The theatre and convention centre complex as proposed is estimated to cost $7 million.
“Since this has come out, I’ve heard nothing but tremendous support from the community,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux at town council’s July 20 meeting. “We have a very enthusiastic committee member that has volunteered to head the fundraising committee already. I think there’s some very dedicated people there that would like to see this completed.”
At their June 22 meeting, town council received the Taber Performing Arts Centre Phase 2 report, and asked that the report be placed on the July 20 agenda for discussion and decision. Council had previously allocated $20,000 to get the project to the current state.
The initial financial impact will be the cost of a viability study referenced in step two of the Performing Arts Centre Committee’s (PACC) report.
According to administration, “there is significant anecdotal evidence that Taber needs a performing arts centre to successfully compete with other municipalities in terms of attracting new businesses, employees and residents”.
“I’ve heard lots of positive comments from the general public about this, and the fact that we’re proceeding ahead with an avenue that is multi-use, not just a theatre, but multi-use facility and convention centre,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas.
“There’s nothing but positive vibe out there in the community about going down this road. I am in favour of this.”
Steps recommended by the PACC report for moving forward with the proposed facility include establishing a committee to guide the process, hiring an expert to assess the viability of a theatre and convention centre, establishing a fundraising committee, initiating the Community Centre re-design if a Canada 150 grant is received, and moving to a detailed design as soon as possible.
Coun. Rick Popadynetz was tentatively in support of the project, but expressed concern over the $7 million price tag while pushing for a clause in the motion designating most of the project total to be raised through fundraising.
“It’s a great concept for every man, woman and child in our community. Seniors, everybody could use this conference centre. I think it’s a smart decision to move forward on this. The only problem I have is the price tag of $7 million.”
Mayor Henk De Vlieger reiterated that the motion being considered by council was not the final word on the matter.
“This motion is not a green light that we’re going to build it already. There’s going to be a lot of decisions before the green light is given.”
On March 10, 2014 town council decided to re-examine the effort that had been ongoing for many years to develop a performing arts centre in Taber. Council subsequently adopted a terms of reference for a comprehensive review, and appointed seven individuals to the PACC.
On Nov. 24, 2014 council received the phase 1 report from the PACC and directed phase 2 to proceed, while allocating $20,000 for the purchase of architectural services. Delivered to council on June 22, the PACC’s report recommended constructing a 304-seat theatre downtown attached to the northeast corner of the Community Centre Auditorium.
Benefits to this site, according to the PACC, include adding an attractive anchor to the downtown core, augmenting the proposed Gateway Project (postponed until 2016), keeping operations and maintenance centralized for the town, and the availability of parking on-site and in the adjacent downtown core.
“I understand Councellor Popadynetz’s concerns, but I also have total trust and faith in these committee members and their committment to this project,” said Coun. Randy Sparks. “They’re going to do everything in their power to make sure the fundraising and granting is in place, so it impacts the Town of Taber as little as possible. I know they’re going to do that. These are good individuals on this committee, and they’re going to make sure everything is in line.”
Following discussion at their July 20 meeting, town council voted unanimously to approve the five steps recommended by the Performing Arts Centre Committee (PACC) as the path forward to achieve the theatre and convention centre complex proposed in the PACC’s Phase 2 report; appointed Darrell Croft, Doug Emek, Laura Ross-Giroux, Tom Machacek, Ray Sheen, Pat Shimbashi, and Ryan Torrie to a new committee with the assigned goal of having the complex built by Sept. 1, 2020; and directed administration to develop a draft terms of reference for the new committee based on the five steps listed in Phase 2 report and present it to council for consideration and approval by October 2015.