Colwood performing arts centre concept lands $15K grant

Teamwork is taking centre stage in the creation of a new performing arts centre in Colwood.

Teamwork is taking centre stage in the creation of a new performing arts centre in Colwood.

While still in its infancy, the proposed project for Royal Bay was recently awarded a $15,000 cash injection from the Ministry of Education.

The future of the Emily Carr WestShore Performing Arts Centre largely hinges on whether a new high school is built in the Royal Bay area, most of which remains undeveloped.

However, the $15,000 grant means a consulting firm can be hired to plan crucial next steps, such as developing a business plan and identifying potential government funding sources.

“We can’t go forward without a consultant,” said Jim Cambridge, superintendent of the Sooke School District. “There’s nobody (else) who has the expertise or the time.”

The project, which involves more than a dozen community stakeholders, is led by the school board, the City of Colwood and the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.

Consultants will round out the circle, planning potential revenue streams that would ensure the facility enjoys a long life, Cambridge explained, adding that a request for proposals from consulting groups could be issued in February.

“(The centre) has to be self-sustaining,” he said. “(That is how) they become an asset, not a liability in terms of their operating costs.”

“We have to go to the broader community. There would need to be regular tenants,” Cambridge noted.

Together, their vision for the centre includes a 1,000-seat theatre, which could potentially attract larger acts, an outdoor amphitheatre, a 200- to 300-seat theatre, as well as a gallery, and studio and rehearsal space. Plus, it would be built with environmental features.

The centre would cater to performing arts such as music, philharmonic and dance, as well as the fine arts.

“This is designed to be regional, provincial, even national,” said Dan Spinner, the WestShore Chamber’s chief executive officer.

The future of the centre largely hinges on the proposed secondary school, which has yet to be designed. But the idea is to situate them next to each other so students can readily access the facility and parking can be shared.

“We see it as a chance to share a connection,” Cambridge said.

Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders said the centre could be utilized by First Nations communities looking to foster the development of their language.

“It’s awesome,” Sanders said of the project, adding that communities such as Beecher Bay, Songhees and T’souke have already expressed interest.

Spinner said the need for such an arts and culture centre is tremendous considering the level of growth projected for the West Shore. The population is expected to double within the next seven years.

“The demand is (already) huge,” he said. “There’s no reason why the West Shore can’t have this.

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