June 18th, 2024

Councillors make case for new arts centre

By Al Beeber on June 2, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Two city council members with decades of experience on stage say a new performing arts centre is needed for Lethbridge.
Mark Campbell and Jeff Carlson are well known to audiences for their work in a wide range of roles over the years and both believe it’s time Lethbridge moved forward with an arts centre that will fulfill a range of needs for many years.
Both councillors also say funding right now is not available for such a facility but keeping it in the Capital Improvement Plan will maintain it as a priority.
“We’re the third largest city in Alberta; we need to start acting like it,” said Carlson Friday afternoon.
Carlson is the chair of the Performing Arts Steering Committee and a founding member of New West Theatre, a group whose genesis started in the backyard of former longtime artistic director Brian Parkinson when the theatre troupe known as Great West Theatre left its previous home at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod.
“Ten of us sat in Brian Parkinson’s backyard and started talking,” Carlson recalled. After discovering the Yates was open during summer months and at Christmas, New West was born, filling seats in those seasons for years.
Without a pandemic the Yates would be filled for most open days during the year, making it inaccessible for touring groups and local organizations wanting to stage shows.
“If a new company wanted to get going, there would be no place for them to go,” said Carlson. But a new facility would free up performance opportunities at the Yates, he said.
A plan for the proposed arts centre shows it would consist of a 950-seat performing arts theatre and a 240-seat multi-purpose room with music capability. The planned facility also has about 15,000 square feet of common space for receptions, washrooms, performers and office space.
Two studies, including one in 2010, identified a need for a larger performing arts space.
By keeping the project in the CIP, this “allows us to seek funding” and it tells politicians that “Lethbridge is primed and ready to go,” said Carlson.
In 1967, when the Yates was constructed, the city had four other venues for performing arts, said Carlson. Now the city has the recently renovated Yates with a reduced number of seats to improve comfort as well as the Enmax Centre which can be reconfigured in several ways to accommodate audiences of as few as 1,200.
But Carlson points out the Enmax Centre seating “is uncomfortable,” while lauding the fact it has been a valuable asset as a performance venue.
“It’s doing a great job of bringing people” to see performances, he said.
Carlson said the city needs to look to the future because a facility – as the Yates has shown – will last 50 to 75 years.
Twenty years from now, Carlson said, residents won’t want to look back and ask why they didn’t think of a long-range plan.
A 950-seat facility is a “compromise between a size of facility that will serve our community in the future and what’s affordable. My dearest hope is we can bring the costs down,” said Carlson of the estimated $60-million cost.
A venue of about 950 seats would also draw more touring groups to the city, groups who otherwise may go to the Esplanade in Medicine Hat, he suggested.
A bigger venue will also appeal to companies considering setting up headquarters in Lethbridge, Carlson said, because it will provide their employees a facility they’re accustomed to having elsewhere.
Campbell, who is known not only for theatre but his work on radio and television, said the Yates is 96 per cent filled during the year.
“There is an absolute need for a performing arts centre,” said Campbell, adding it’s a quality of life issue for the city.
“The Yates is a wonderful facility….historically, the Yates has basically been booked 96 per cent of the time so there is a lot of people that don’t have accessibility to a performing arts centre and so there is the need. . .there’s a quote we’ve had as many as 1,500 arts events a year and so when you say there’s not many arts events taking place and the Yates is almost always booked up, there is an absolute need. That’s first and foremost, the absolute need.
“There’s also the other esoteric parts of a performing arts centre, the quality of life aspect. It’s having a wonderful facility, not only for local groups but also for touring groups that want to come in, to perform for people in a really nice venue and that’s part of it.”
He said a bigger facility could be used for a range of uses including graduations, films and presentations.
“Who uses a performing arts centre? It’s not just about a theatre company or touring groups.”
Campbell said a preferred site has been chosen – the city common area downtown basically in the area of the Civic Centre, former YMCA site and RCMP headquarters, adding “a comprehensive study will be done in the next CIP that hopefully really looks at really expanding on the idea of having a performing arts centre there.”
“There’s a lot of excitement because it’s kind of in the downtown core. People can really get excited about it.”
He said such a facility will enhance and energize the community.
“I’m kind of excited about that. Having it downtown will be an exciting part.”
A top quality facility is not unknown to Lethbridge, Campbell said, referring to the Majestic Theatre in the early 20th century which he said was known as “the jewel of the west.”
“We have a history of having a good theatre.”
Campbell first hit the stage when he was in high school in the early 1970s and played the Yates almost yearly until the pandemic, he said, with groups such as Playgoers, Lethbridge Musical Theatre, Centre Stage and New West.
“It’s been a wonderful run.”
And Campbell thinks a new facility is about future generations of performers.
“This is what it’s all about: getting kids excited about getting to perform in a really nice theatre. . .it would be nice to give them something state-of-the-art.”
Like Carlson, Campbell sees a facility as a project for the future, not the short term.
“Realistically, that’s not going to happen. We need money. Money is not available at this time; we’ve got a tough economy so it’s making sure the talk doesn’t go away. That’s the important thing.”

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We are the third largest city in thenProvince, we have the largest drug problem in comparison to the other two. Maybe Carlson and Campbell should grow up and deal with a need of resolution on the drug issues and not the wants of their voting blocks

pursuit diver

This is why it is vital that we make the right decisions in the next election.
Anyone that cannot see all of the cutbacks coming due to COVID costs, wanting to spend over $60 million, with the last estimated cost at $100 million and after this city has just spent $40 million on CASA Arts Center and the Yates Center, both being arts centers, needs to be removed from leadership, since they do not have the interests of this city’s citizens in mind, but their own personal ambitions. We need infrastructure improvements in this city, we need to resolve the addiction treatment problem to clean up our streets and downtown.
These short sighted councillors have consistently had blinders on when it comes to the important issues this city badly needs and their answers are “more art’s investment”. Let’s not forget the investment in another form of entertainment, the exhibition project! And, just announced, the almost $6 million for the SAGA Arts building, which is located where? Galt Gardens!!!
Thank God this is an election year! It is time! Clean up the streets in this city first! Right now we keep on blowing money on the downtown to revitalize and you can only put so much lipstick and jewelry on this pig, which is still a pig that no one wants!
When someone smashes the window of your vehicle to steal something from it, the costs come out of your pocket! The deductible for most being $500! The outcry has been made for the last 5 years, but nothing was done and the problem increased!
Resolve the problem that has destroyed our city’s reputation internationally and continues to destroy it’s reputation! We need our city taken back from the addicts, our parks, our downtown, our neighbourhoods!
Have these councillors being visiting the Canabis stores a little too frequently? We need change!!! People that will put our hard earned tax dollars where it is needed! This is not the time to be blowing money!!

Last edited 3 years ago by pursuit diver
Seth Anthony

The following list is an online snip. It lists what businesses have to deal with downtown (and now in other areas of Lethbridge as well). Most of these addict incidences occur to residents and residential homes as well. Every day on social media, there are multiple reports of similar happenings to residence as well as businesses:

Customer safety: including but not limited to

– multiple break-ins on vehicle(s) while unloading or parked at downtown business:
– cell phones, wallets, credit cards, change, sunglasses, keys,
– home robberies, resulting from these thefts.
– Drug debris: needles, drugs, AHS drug kits, Narcon kits, drug usage items, pipes, etc. Witnessing erratic behaviour, violent behaviour, medical crisis, harassment.
– multiple vandalism (broken windows, graffiti, building damage,
– stolen business items, bathroom use for drugs or passing out,
– new products and other valuable assets stolen, unrecovered.
– stealing from customers, harassing customers,
– refusal to leave premises while highly intoxicated,
-indecent exposure in front of business and customers due to drug/alcohol intoxication.
– Selling stolen property in front of business.
– Assaults near business.
– businesses broken into.
– Leaving stolen property at businesses.
– Employees assaulted / theft,
– employee vehicle break ins,
– employee bike thefts,
– employee safety at night be it working or getting home(car/bus/bike).
-businesses held hostage as people assault employee while getting into car or refuse to leave doorway threatening employees.

Council buries their head on this elephant in the room. Instead, we have vested interest municipal leaders wanting to spend even more millions on the arts and other useless projects. They are either deliberately delusional, or complete idiots. Federal taxes will go up significantly due to Covid, oil prices are in the tank, and these pie in the sky morons can’t stop burning our money. So you see, it’s not just lipstick on a pig. It’s also foxes running the hen house.

Last edited 3 years ago by Seth Anthony