By Trevor Busch
A proposed theatre and convention centre complex pitched to the Town of Taber will come with an almost $7 million price tag if town council chooses to endorse the project.
At their June 22 meeting, town council voted unanimously to accept as information the Taber Performing Arts Centre phase 2 report, and requested the report be placed on the next regular meeting agenda for council to determine how best to proceed.
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 Taber Performing Arts Centre Committee (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 recommends 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. The total estimated cost of construction for the facility is $6,777,340.
“If this goes ahead, it will be an awesome facility,” said Coun. Randy Sparks. “I appreciate what you’ve brought to us here, because it’s turned into a multi-dimensional instead of single dimensional facility, and it’s very nice to see the expansion, and what you individuals have done here. It seems like a big price tag, but again, maybe it isn’t, because this will be a wonderful facility if this goes ahead.”
Heading the delegation from the PACC was Dr. Ryan Torrie, with a supplementary presentation by Robert Hirano representing RKH Architecture.
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.
“I’m very impressed with the design, too, especially it’s multi-functional,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger. “We can do so many different things — I was very impressed to see that in this presentation. It will make it more viable.”
According to the PACC’s phase 2 report, Taber is one of the few communities its size without a performing arts theatre, and despite intensive efforts by numerous volunteers, previous plans have stalled.
The PACC explored a collaborative effort with a dry sports facility, but an ideal location and uses were determined to be conflicting, and a dual facility of this nature would offer only a limited cost savings when economic impacts were considered.
Construction of a new building on an open lot was also considered to be restrictive by the PACC, while the site recommended opens up numerous additional uses making it economically viable.
“I just wanted to mention what incredible potential this has for Taber, in that we could become a conference centre,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux.
“This is looking to the future, not just next year or the year after.”
Issues raised by council included parking for events considering the proposed facility would eat up more area in the existing lot, as well as the issue of increased staffing for operation and maintenance, and associated costs.
The PACC recommended moving forward by establishing a committee to guide the process, hiring an expert to assess the theatre complex viability, establishing a fundraising committee, and moving to a detailed design in the near future.