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Nordicity study concludes Collingwood should have an arts centre

‘The next stage is not determining if we should build an arts centre, but what arts centre we should build, and when,’ says the chair of Collingwood Arts, Culture and Entertainment Group
2021-07-28 Theatre
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Survey says: There is an appetite for an arts and culture centre in Collingwood.

During Monday’s strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, councillors voted to receive a final 74-page study by Nordicity Group Ltd. concerning the feasibility of building a Collingwood Arts Centre. They also heard a deputation on the matter from Rob Hart, chair of the Collingwood Arts, Culture, and Entertainment (CACE) Group, and voted to recommend staff prepare a business analysis based on the study and research potential funding options to create an overall funding strategy.

Staff are prepared to return to council with a report on funding options in late 2022.

“It has been a long three years, getting to this point,” said Hart. “Let’s not drain the energy and impetus created by the positive outcome of the feasibility study. We believe not acting now would be seen in a poor light.”

“The next stage is not determining if we should build an arts centre, but what arts centre we should build, and when,” said Hart.

As part of Nordicity Group Ltd.’s public consultation process for their study, more than 1,600 people participated in a public survey. Stakeholder consultation interviews took place as well as a roundtable session with additional stakeholders, and regular updates with the interested parties. Responses were collected between January and August 2021.

Nordicity advises in the study that success depends on many factors from ensuring continued community buy-in, strong leadership particularly related to market attraction, programming and promotions, as well as a commitment from the town towards the annual subsidy.

As part of its recommendations, the study suggests the town should consider two options for a new arts centre.

Option 1 would be for a performing arts centre that held between 400 and 600 seats, as a more “intimate” option. The venue would be between 38,000 and 45,300 square feet, and be used primarily by community-driven activity with about 30 per cent “tour-based” activity. A costing estimate for this type of facility would be between $16 and $32 million.

Option 2 would be for an 800-seat venue of between 75,900 and 84,000 square feet. A costing estimate for this type of facility would be between $25 and $49 million.

“At this capacity, there is greater opportunity to attract some ‘name’ acts because ticket sales could generate enough revenue to cover their fee, while the per-ticket cost may remain relatively affordable,” notes the report. “While this size of venue is beyond the stated needs of the existing arts and culture sector in Collingwood, it does provide more adequate facilities that can accommodate the town’s potential growth and identity for the coming 10-15 years.”

The report also contemplates possible locations in Collingwood for such a facility. Many of the proposed locations would be downtown-adjacent, however, the consultants also discussed the possibility of locating a centre near Millennium Park or near the Georgian College’s South Georgian Bay campus.

To read the full study, click here.

Coun. Steve Berman and Coun. Yvonne Hamlin asked if conversations on the project would happen as part of the 2022 budget process.

“There are some conversations we need to have about, what is the final destination here,” said Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture Dean Collver, adding that staff will need to investigate to gather a fuller understanding of funding opportunities through public or private partnerships, as well as grants through the provincial and federal governments that may be available to the town before being able to determine the true cost of such a project.

“We have a lot of work to be done between here and there,” he said. “We’re trying not to over-promise and learn from our past mistakes.”

Mayor Brian Saunderson called the feasibility study “a map forward.”

“Being involved in one of these types of projects before with Central Park (Arena), I know there’s lots of groundwork to be done and lots of business case numbers to be hashed out,” he said.

Erica Angus, executive director of Theatre Collingwood, says the outcome of the study speaks to something the local theatre community has known for a long time.

“Theatre Collingwood has been looking for a permanent home for almost 40 years, but the arts and culture centre will not just be a home for us but for the greater arts community and public,” said Angus in a statement. “It is our hope that the committee will encourage staff to move quickly on the recommendations, and we look forward to helping with the process.”

Council voted unanimously in favour of recommending receiving the report and directing staff to prepare a business case with funding options. Coun. Tina Comi was absent from the meeting.

The recommendations will need to be ratified at the next regular meeting of council.