While the Nelson Civic Theatre Society is starting to hold meetings inside the building as they continue to work on their business plan, the Downtown Athletic Club say they will be approaching city council as well on October 15.
“We want to make the decision as difficult as possible so that if council has an option of a theatre proposal that is a little shaky or needs some financial support from city council or from various levels of government, they will have to compare that to our project which is fully funded by our membership and will place no burden on city taxpayers,” said Pat Hodgson with the Athletic Club.
The Athletic Club presented their plans for a mixed-use recreational facility in the Civic Theatre space in the spring, which was followed by a request for proposal process where the city invited groups to submit requests for a theatre in the space.
The Nelson Civic Theatre Society rallied following the request and has since been given an extension to work on their proposal.
“There was no request for proposal process until we submitted our project and they created the process for a theatre option only,” said Hodgson.
“No one else has come forward to say they would like to use the space. We know that people in Nelson would like to have a theatre, they would like to have the Civic Theatre. We know that if they can put together a viable proposal then that is the decision that will be made. I would think in the two-plus years that building has sat vacant, to my knowledge our group is the first to come forward with anything resembling a viable plan for the space.”
Like the Theatre Society, the Athletic Club is working on solidifying their membership base and funding.
“We’re going to take the time that the theatre group has been given and solicit our membership,” said Hodgson. “Basically we will be asking all of our members to make a financial contribution to make this project go ahead. All of our members will be expected to put forward a substantial amount of cash, that will be enough to take to a lender and say we have this amount of money which we think is what we will require.”
He said it is the hope of the Athletic Club to have a fully funded project to present to city council in October.
“Our intent is to have something that is rock solid and ready to go,” he said.
“We wish the theatre the best of luck. We understand that they are the sentimental favourite, they have broad-based public support. We understand that. And if they can put forward a viable proposal, we wish them the best of luck.”
Should city council decide not to pursue the Theatre Society’s proposal and re-enter the request for proposal process, Hodgson said he was unsure if the Athletic Club would keep its project on the table.
“We know we don’t have a lot of time left where we are because the building is being redeveloped,” he said.
“Based on the demands of the landlord it is unlikely that we will be able to stay there longer than the current season. We’re not expecting that we will be able to stay there longer than the spring of next year.
“To go through this process again would be a complete waste of time. I may be speaking out of turn here, but if city council doesn’t make a decision following this process near or on October 15, if they go for further study or another request for proposal I would suspect we would likely pull our proposal. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t necessarily participate, but I think that we would then have to look more seriously at other options.”