The Nelson and District Arts Council wants to build a floating stage at Lakeside Park, something like the one that existed there 50 years ago. It was built for the 1965 International Water Pageant and burned down in 1968.
Neil Harrower, the arts council’s executive director, says he has talked to many players in tourism and the arts — the Capitol Theatre, Columbia Basin Trust, Kootenay Lake Tourism, Selkirk College, Shambhala Music Festival, the city’s Cultural Development Committee – and everyone thinks it’s a good idea.
“We have been assessing whether there is a need, and we have decided there is,” Harrower told the Star.
That need is for a performance space that is an alternative to the Capitol Theatre in the summer.
“There is only one venue in town for performance if you want more than a club-sized number of people there. Potentially the Civic Theatre could be used but they are going to want to run movies. There is the Shambhala stage at the college but it is part of the school, so it is not so accessible.”
Harrower sees the stage as a place for theatre and music in the summer, and this is especially needed, he says, because the Capitol is taken over by the summer youth production in July and is closed in August, “so there is nowhere to have an audience of over 100 people.”
“It could be home of a Nelson outdoor festival in the summer. There are so many touring theatre companies and bands of so many genres.”
Harrower envisions the structure as something like Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, with temporary seasonal tent structures, not a wooden roof as in the photos of the old structure. He thinks it could cost $1 million.
The location of the former stage, just west of the public washrooms at Lakeside Park, would be ideal, Harrower said, because the pilings that supported it are still there. But it’s not as simple as just building it on the old supports.
“We would have to deal with the federal government in terms of fisheries, because the stage is also a boat, and we have to look at the pilings and realize there were dams built since then. We need friends in high places to help us figure out how to do this.”
Harrower wants to put together a working group to look into all aspects of it further — particularly engineering, architecture, and financing — and to create a business plan and feasibility study.
“There would need to be city and regional district support, and the Columbia Basin Trust, because the stage would benefit not jut the city but the region, and it would be great for tourism.”
Harrower can be reached through the arts council website at ndac.ca.