City council discusses the possibility of converting the civic centre into a theatre.

During the May 21 Committee of the Whole meeting, Nicola Valley Theatre Society delegate proposes theatre expansion for the civic centre.

Presented by former city councillor and Nicola Valley Theatre Society representative Kurt Christopherson, the proposed expansion would attach to the auditorium east wall into the present parking lot, providing 250 to 300 seats.

The upgrade would also consist of additional moveable walls. “It also adds another dimension as to how the civic centre can be used, it would actually give you three divided portions in the existing auditorium,” said Christopherson.

Photo/Kurt Christopherson

Christopherson explains that the upgrade to the auditorium would allow for more capacity whilst saving money opposed to building a separate theatre. 

“The existing operational demands would not be greatly impacted, staff already does the janitorial, the office, the bookings, all of that,” said Christopherson. “It’s not like a completely new separate building somewhere else in town that has to hire from scratch.”

Christopherson believes that a “proper theatre setting” encourages bringing in movies, arts, entertainment, events, and the development of local talent. “Development of local talent, that’s probably my interest most, Merritt has always had a strong tradition of encouraging its youth to participate in the cultural events.”

 The cost of the upgrades would be approximately up to $3 million. According to Christopherson, the Theatre Society already has potential sponsors willing to fund the construction, the City just needs to present plans to the public.

“If you’ve got a plan that you can present to the public, then you go after corporate sponsors, we certainly had talks with the mine prior to this, we had talks with First Nations, we had several sponsors that were ready to come on on board, but you need to say we’re going to start before that can happen,” said Christopherson.

Despite potential funds from the Theatre Society and its associates, the upgrades to the civic centre remain the responsibility of the City of Merritt. 

“We would basically have to have another project manager full time on hand to be able to manage any more work over the next five to ten years,” said City of Merritt’s Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia White.

As this was discussed at a Committee of the Whole meeting where only information is provided, no decision was made; a decision regarding the theatre will be further discussed at the first regular council meeting in June.