Town needs real performing arts centre

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am

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Dear Editor,

Once again I’m shocked but not surprised. This time it was the news that the Town is apparently falling over itself in the rush to hand taxpayers’ money over to the public school board to help pay for a new theatre.

The most recent feasibility study on the subject of a real Performing Arts Centre (PAC), which I believe cost somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars range, concluded that we need a PAC, and that two options were a standalone structure in the downtown core, and part of an expansion to FCHS.

Page 30 of the final report states, “…these are not the only choices available to the community”: when the report was presented, its authors said that more public consultation would be required before decisions are made.

The report also states, “...any option that puts a theatre at or near the FCHS/AHSFA is responding to the needs expressed by School and Division teachers and staff for performance facilities.” (This was a Town-commissioned study.)

Last June, the Town signed a memorandum of understanding with FSD38 to look at the feasibility of building a theatre at FCHS. This week, the Wheel hinted at imminent agreement.

It appears that the Town is being railroaded or panicked into a decision.

Where was the investigation into other locations? Where was the public consultation? And why are taxpayers’ dollars being spent on public school infrastructure? As a separate school system taxpayer, this concerns me.

The study and report were predicated on a maximum 30,000 town population; they pre-date the removal of the population cap. Okotoks will be somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people by 2030 or so – 16 years time – so the needs identified in the report have been magnified. The town does not need another stop-gap theatre – it has too many already. It needs a PAC that will be part of the town’s economic engine; that will draw culture lovers from all over Southern Alberta.

Money can be found for fieldhouses, for twinning ice arenas, and the like, so why not a real PAC? Arenas might satisfy a need, but do they raise the desirability of a community in the eyes of outsiders?

I believe that a larger and more diverse group of people would be attracted by a PAC that could accommodate music of all genres, drama, dance, film, visual arts, a library, art galleries, museum, weddings, receptions…

Arts and culture supporters – and separate school taxpayers –inform yourself about theatre-related developments at FCHS. And please, as a matter of urgency, let councillors know your thoughts. If, as a majority of them believe, residents desire a much larger Okotoks, they should be discouraged from voting for stop-gaps.

Top quality arts and culture amenities will, I’m convinced, greatly enhance the town’s metamorphosis into the much larger economic powerhouse that Council envisages. Help councillors realize that vision by encouraging them to support a real Performing Arts Centre.

Reg Gothard

Okotoks


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