Looking past romanticism

If the Save the Theatre group put forward a viable plan that places no burden on the taxpayer there will be no opposition from our group

Civic Theatre

Re: “A night out at the cinema,” Letters, May 2

The letter highlights the two basic elements that appear to be forming in the debate over the future of Nelson’s Civic Theatre building.

Mikaiya Austin’s letter was a beautifully written, heartfelt tribute to what the theatre means to many people in the community. It evoked the romance and nostalgia of a venue that has been a gathering place for many people in the community over the years.

What this letter did not address in any way are the economics of operating a theatre and the ongoing costs to city taxpayers of maintaining a very large vacant building.

It is perfectly fine to romanticize the feelings that Nelson residents have for the theatre but at the end of the day, the Civic Theatre building costs taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each year to maintain in its current, vacant state. The previous operator couldn’t make a living without city subsidies and the last proponent gave up when the city refused to subsidize their operation.

As a member of the Nelson Squash Club, I encourage Nelson residents to engage in the debate over the future of this iconic building. There is likely not a single member of the Squash Club or Climbing Club that wouldn’t love the opportunity to take in a movie without having to drive to Castlegar, but we have a different vision for the future of the Civic Theatre.

Our vision of this building takes the financial burden off of city taxpayers and puts it in the hands of two long standing community sports groups that have proven over the last two decades that we can be viable financially and self-sustaining.

Residents should think about how often they would go to a movie and how many hours in a day a movie theatre sits empty providing no benefit to residents. Is that a good way to spend scarce city tax dollars? How much are you willing to see your taxes go up to support a theatre?

As an alternative, the Capitol Theatre has seats and a screen in place already and sits empty on many evenings and is currently the beneficiary of city funding in excess of $50,000 per year.

Surely there must be a way that this building could be utilized better to show films in addition to its current use as a venue for live performances. Does a town of Nelson’s size need two publicly funded theatres?

If the Save the Theatre group can put forward a viable financial plan that places no burden on the taxpayer, there will be no opposition from our group. If they can not manage it without taxpayer support, we hope that city residents will get behind our project as an alternative use of a vacant City building.

Pat Hodgson

Vice-president

Nelson Squash Club

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