By Lethbridge Herald on October 12, 2021.
“This is a challenge. I am not anti-arts. We spent $14.6 million on renovating the Yates, we are spending $5.6 million on SAAG and we have a new arts facility in CASA. The proposed new performing arts center is $138 million. We have big city problems to address that deal with real quality of life issues. Arts facilities, in my view are essential to an enlightened society but they are more ‘wants’ and I think citizens want our ‘needs’ addressed first.”
“With so many unaddressed needs in our city right now, a luxury item such as the Performing Arts Centre should be put on the backburner. Instead, upgrades to the Enmax Centre would provide an economical stopgap and avoid the need to subsidize the operation while we get our house in order.”
“The Performing Arts Centre has been identified as a need for over 20 years. The new Civic Common Comprehensive Plan is an important plan to help establish what I think could be a significant arts district in the city creating opportunity and vibrancy.”
“I would approach this issue as I would any other funding and capital issue. Every project must be viewed within the larger economic realities related to the current economic condition, with awareness of what funding sources are available (publicly and privately), after thorough research of a suitable and sustainable operating model and with consideration of how to balance any one project with other projects and needs in the community. This work involves ongoing community conversations, research into how to leverage city money (to encourage other investments), and consideration of how a project will impact the community. Solutions that we know are effective with large projects is to ensure that we have some projects that are shovel ready (so we can take advantage if funding opportunities became available) and to have a project done to a level that it is suitable for promotion to private and public funders. Work then continues on advocating the project to other funders and organizations.”
“An adequately sized performing arts centre is vital to the fabric of any community, including ours. As in so many other cases, we NEED to be creative in funding a facility such as this without adding an additional burden onto the already over-taxed citizens.”
“I believe the City is overdue for adequate facilities for the Performing Arts. I appreciate the incredible renovation on the Yates, as well as the construction of CASA; both facilities are significant contributors to arts and culture in our City. I believe that a Performing Arts Centre would be very beneficial to the economic development of the City, however I remain unconvinced that now is the appropriate time to commit City funds to such a project. I would be very interested to learn what other funding models are available to complete the work. Federal Government grants and funds may be available and accessible for this project, as well as provincial funding. Even private investment may be a way to fund this opportunity, there are many different avenues here. In the short term, I believe the City should continue investigating this project and moving it forward from a planning perspective, but I do not see breaking ground as a responsible move in the next four years unless significant funding is available from other sources. Lethbridge needs to prioritize social and economic recovery from the pandemic before we can commit to other major projects such as this.”
“First let me say that I enjoy the performing arts (I play guitar myself. However, these days it’s more like a collection of guitars just staring at me!). I’ve said it before and I will again…if I am elected, my decisions for funding major projects will be based on wants versus needs. A new Performing Arts Centre is definitely a ‘want’ on my list. But at a price of over $100 million, it’s just too rich for the City of Lethbridge at this point. Maybe in 5-10 years or so. I must mention that what I really found troublesome is that many residents I’ve spoken to about the PAC were under the impression that the CASA building was to have included a theatre as well. Anyway, improvements to the Yates Centre were recently completed to the tune of $13 million. I would like to know what that 500-seat theatre brings in on an annual basis and then what a proposed 950-seat theatre will cost to operate per year. As far as a solution, besides securing substantial provincial and federal grants, perhaps the proponents can reach out to the business community and identify one or more sponsors for naming rights, etc. Then come back to City Council with a revised funding plan.”
“In principle I support the issue of the Performing Arts Centre. That said, with a shrinking MSI and no commitment from Provincial, Federal or third party sources, it is not something that is feasible. Certainly not until commitments from the Provincial Government to replace the MSI are forthcoming. To that end, I propose that contacts with government, the AUMA, RMA and all other stakeholders be employed to resolve these concerns well prior to the government’s 2024 proposed resolution date.”
“A PAC is something the performing arts community has been publicly advocating for since 2007. I support it in principle; I dislike watching people travel to Medicine Hat and Calgary for concerts, while Lethbridge businesses lose out on that revenue. Many performances skip Lethbridge due to the lack of a proper venue. Not to mention that our aging facilities like the Yates are booked to capacity and have some deficiencies. That being said, we are transitioning out of a crippling pandemic amidst surging inflation, while facing a social crisis that needs our attention. We cannot shoulder the burden of paying for a PAC completely by ourselves, and support is contingent on being able to leverage funds from other levels of government, much like we did with Casa. Casa was a $20.6 million building project; the City of Lethbridge paid a mere $200,000, and found $14.4 milion from the province and $6 million from the federal government. Those external dollars would never have materialized if the city hadn’t committed to realizing the project. If we keep a Pac as a priority, I believe we can find the funding. We need to keep the forward momentum, and commitment, while looking for visionary ways to ensure the cost to the public is mitigated. This is definitely something that should remain in the public discourse, and something that we need to work towards.”
“The Performing Arts Centre (PCA) was first proposed over 20 years ago, and obviously never got shovel ready, and for just reason. I strongly believe that reason is, Lethbridge did not need one, and the same answer is true today. A PCA for Lethbridge has been reviewed, and reviewed and each time at a significant cost. Do residents realize the ‘projected cost’ for a PCA? Well, sit down, the projected cost for building is an estimated 100 million! YES, that is $100,000,000 (with estimates, we always expect over-budgeting and usually it is 20 per cent…we are looking at $120,000,000). Folks, that is just the building, what about land/services? Assuming a PCA was built, now we look at administration, staffing, utilities, security, parking and on and on and on. Does anyone really believe that Lethbridge, with a population of just 100,000 can sustain such a facility? Will big name artists or groups even consider coming to perform in Lethbridge when they can attract huge audiences in central locations like Calgary? We just spent $14 million on renovations to our Yates Memorial Centre (2018) and $26 million (2012) on renovations to the Enmax Centre. I strongly believe that our Yates Memorial Theatre, Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Enmax Centre and the University of Lethbridge Theatre continue to serve our community and has sustained our performing arts adequately. If those wanting a new PCA in Lethbridge are serious, then perhaps they should fundraise, obtain grant funding or put in sweat equity to this end.”
“The Performing Arts Centre is a ‘want’ like most community projects. It is not a ‘need’ in the sense that electric transmission lines, sewer upgrades, water pipes and other infrastructure projects are ‘needs’. Decades ago, then Mayor David Carpenter introduced a multi-year plan to eliminate tax-supported debt which was adopted by his successor Robert Tarleck and around 2005 tax-supported debt was completely eliminated. The policy formulated by Mayor Carpenter continued through 2013 when my term as Mayor ended. The gist of the policy was that community projects should be approved only when the City was able to pay for them without having to borrow monies to do so. That policy was not followed after 2013 when Council borrowed around $55 million to complete all phases of the multi-phase leisure centre whereas the prior Council had approved that portion of the project that could be paid for without incurring tax supported debt. There is no doubt that it was a worthy project (as were many other projects that had been proposed) but that was not a good reason to incur tax supported debt. At some point, the Performing Arts Centre may well become a project whose time has come and, when that occurs, the next step would be to evaluate whether the City can afford it without resorting to borrow money to pay for it and thus increasing tax-supported debt. Just because we can borrow money doesn’t mean we should. It would be fantastic if we could build all of the community projects that are proposed but the reality is that we can only afford some of them.”
“A community, like all of us, needs to live within its means. While a Performing Arts Centre would be a wonderful facility to have, I believe that it is not feasible at this time. We have built or are building, CASA, the ATB Centre, Legacy Park, the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre an expansion at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, and the 3 Ave. S. redevelopment. In that time staff have been let go and infrastructure, like roads and parks, is allowed to decline. I believe that we need to cut back on new development and start looking after what we already have. Once we have accomplished that, then we can start tackling new projects. I would not support funding of the Performing Arts Centre at this time.”
“Big-ticket items are always a challenge for a municipality. The large cost of a project like a performing arts centre attracts opposition from those who disagree with the type of project and/or the community’s need for it. That opposition doesn’t necessarily mean that the project itself isn’t worthwhile or of benefit to the community. In the case of the proposed performing arts centre in Lethbridge, I will encourage council to decide whether this is a project that provides enough benefit to justify its cost. If so, then I would take the lead in bringing together those who are best positioned to tell the story of the benefits of the project for the community. It makes much more sense to greenlight a large project if the community benefit is clear and widely understood. The next step is to determine available funding sources, including a potential community capital campaign and contributions from other levels of government. If those are sufficient to meet the expected costs of this project within the confines of the city’s capped contribution, it then needs to move forward as part of the redevelopment of the Civic Common area. Throughout, the city needs to be mindful of the cost and the economic situation facing residents, including any continuing economic effects of COVID-19. The reality is that a growing city needs cultural events and attractions, and a performing arts centre can bring people together, and provide economic and cultural benefits to the community.”
“Being a Councillor means considering the needs of the community as a whole, whether or not you personally agree with the project. With a major project such as the Performing Arts Centre (PAC) – like any major facility – Council must undertake an out-of-the box approach.
One tool that could help our community is exploring more Public – Private Partnerships (P3s) for capital projects. For a PAC, a P3 with a local developer could create a wonderful community-focused centre that perhaps also offers housing, retail and commercial space, or a hotel and conference facilities. This is not a strange idea. The City currently has a partnership with local school boards for gymnasium ‘up sizing,’ something Council should explore for sports-specific opportunities, which would minimize the need for another City-run fieldhouse. There are partnership opportunities out there. We must be open to exploring them. Council must always explore partnerships that can benefit the community and spark local investment especially for our long-term facility needs. Being a Councillor means understanding the importance of having projects like the PAC in the Capital Budget. If a partnership can be found, if other-source funding becomes available, or if a creative opportunity arises, good planning and preparation makes us ‘opportunity ready.’ Good business practice and governance is to be prepared for these opportunities. Council is the place to debate ideas, visions, and values. Ultimately, Council has a discussion on community projects based upon what we need, want, and can afford. We should always remain open to possibilities!”
“Having a high caliber Performing Arts Centre helps legitimate Lethbridge as the center of Southern Alberta and encourages people to come to Lethbridge versus Calgary. It’s not just a good economic investment, it’s also a good social investment, with benefits such as fostering a greater sense of community pride and improved quality of life, and greater community safety through increased night activity. Not to mention the joy of getting to watch your kids or grandchildren perform on stage.
But of course, the question is how will it be funded, which includes building the facility as well as equipment and operations. As with most large projects, funding is achieved by leveraging grants from all levels of government as well as private sector investment. Federal and provincial governments will often have bilateral agreements for funding municipal projects, such as the current Investing in Canada Infrastructures Program (ICIP). Through the (ICIP), Alberta is receiving $3.65 billion over 10 years (2018-28). These projects will be cost-shared with the Alberta government, municipalities and other partners. There are other grants available to also support the acquisition of specialized equipment and operation costs, through funds like the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund (CCSF) and grants through the Canada Council for the Arts. Then there is private sector investment, requiring a great deal of work but worth capitalizing on. It would be imperative to demonstrate the economic return and benefit of such a centre. A focus on community-oriented and arts-focused investors should be a priority.”
Shelby J. MacLeod
“As a citizen the easy answer is yes, to a new performing arts centre. If I am elected, the decision gets harder, as to how much will this cost the taxpayer? I understand the current vision for the performing art center is cutting edge, which will be a great addition to our city. With the yearly maintenance and staffing costs estimated over $1 million dollars per year, regardless of how many concerts they have. The next question people ask me is, how much will this increase my property taxes? As a Council, we must ensure projects have sustainable financing to be built with real operational costs for staffing and maintenance. The current City debt level is about $55 million dollars, which will affect the building timeline decisions; unless a public private partnership (P3) is available to speed up the timeline.
A new performing arts centre will be a very important addition to Lethbridge and area. It will enhance the cultural and tourism fabric of our society for many years to come. I believe we must be strategic on building and be able to fund the ongoing maintenance and staffing for the next 50 years, as necessary on all City owned buildings.”
“As your Mayor, I would be committed to a Lethbridge that is celebrated city with a flourishing arts community that nurtures talent and includes places to celebrate the arts for years to come. I support the inclusion of the Performing Arts Centre (PAC) in the CIP and the continuation of the work to confirm the operating model. This project has been identified as a priority in previous councils’ CIPs, and a vision in the community for decades. I am committed to moving forward a PAC and evaluating all capital funding models, grants and/or private partnerships to see this project realized.”
“I do not support the public funding of a performing arts centre. Reasons are an uncertain economic climate, and Covid considerations of what a “new normal” will look like. If we are in a new normal, questions need to be asked whether it can be self-sustaining. Businesses are struggling to stay afloat. A new centre would likely be under utilized with the taxpayer subsidizing the facility at a great cost. Now is not the time to consider or propose a centre.”
“The only way I can see a project of the magnitude ($136 million – 2018-2030 Capital Improvement Project D-39) becoming reality is a combination of Federal and Provincial grant funding that contributes a majority of the funds. Local and regional fundraising would also need to occur. Lastly an operational funding model would hopefully be established to allow for it to be self-sufficient or sustainable.
In the meantime, hopefully the renovations to the Genevieve E. Yates Memorial Centre (>$10 Million with grant offset) and at the Southminster United Church will help bridge the gap for the current needs of the Performing Arts Community.”