Special circumstances grant awarded to Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society

By on March 12, 2018
An artist's rendition of what the proposed Nicola Valley Community Theatre performing-arts centre would look like. Plans for the project in Merritt include a 274-seat performing-arts theatre and three 103-seat movie theatres. (Photo courtesy of the Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society).


A community theatre moved one step closer to becoming a reality in Merritt, after the B.C. government announced it would be awarding $500,000 to the Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society through a special circumstances grant.

“The city has identified the construction of a theatre complex as a project that will help revitalize their economy after the closure of the Tolko mill,” said forests minister Doug Donaldson. “The special circumstances provision of the rural dividend was specifically designed to assist communities undergoing economic hardship, such as the loss of a primary employer.”

The grant comes through the BC Rural Dividend Fund program, which provides funding to non-profits and municipalities in rural areas of the province. The NVCTS had previously applied for $3.7 million through the RDF program, but had been left off the list of recipients in the last intake period.

It won’t be enough money for the theatre society to begin construction on the facility, said Kurt Christopherson, a director for the NVCTS.

“We’ve always been very firm that we don’t want to start a project and not be able to finish it. Merritt’s had enough of those things,” said Christopherson.

While the $500,000 won’t guarantee that shovels hit the ground, the money will allow the group to access additional funding to complete the $5 million project, stated a press release from the BC government on March 12. Before being awarded the RDF funds, the NVCTS had accumulated about $810,000 in donations, some of which has been spent on the first two phases of the project.

Blueprint designs for the community theatre project. (Photo courtesy of the NVCTS).

We’ve got other grants on the go,” said Christopherson. “This just gives a little bit more credibility that yes, people have looked at the project and yes, they think it’s viable, and yes they think it will help impact the downtown core by just adding another reason for people to come downtown.”

The theatre society is working on securing at least two more grants, one from the federal government and another through the BC Lottery Corporation, added Christopherson.

“These funds will greatly assist with the economic diversification and economic recovery of our community after the loss of one of our major employers,” said Merritt Mayor Neil Menard, in the press release. “We are grateful for the assistance and acknowledge the provincial transition team’s efforts in our community.”

Once built, the complex would comprise of three 100-seat movie theatres and a 250-seat auditorium, located at the corner of Coutlee Avenue and Garcia Street.

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