Hunt on to find new home for Grand Bank Re­gional The­atre

With re­quest to con­tinue us­ing the Bait De­pot de­nied, board of di­rec­tors on the clock to lo­cate a new venue

The Southern Gazette - - Front Page - BY PAUL HERRIDGE GRAND BANK, N.L. paul.herridge@south­erngazette.ca

The next few months are crit­i­cal for the Grand Bank Re­gional The­atre’s fu­ture.

The 2018 the­atre sea­son, its 23rd, wrapped up in late Au­gust at the Bait De­pot.

The fi­nan­cials were “very pos­i­tive this year com­pared to pre­vi­ous years,” Jack Bur­fitt, chair of the not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board of di­rec­tors, told The South­ern Gazette Sept. 21.

The town-owned venue, how­ever, was only a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion for 2018 and has been re­jected as an op­tion by Grand Bank Town Coun­cil go­ing for­ward.

A re­turn to the the­atre’s per­ma­nent home, within the Sa­muel J. Harris Build­ing, is most likely also out. The build­ing has nu­mer­ous health and safety is­sues. The town is look­ing to de­mol­ish the struc­ture.

“I don’t know if that sec­tion can be saved, but it would be a long shot, a very long shot to do it,” Mayor Rex Matthews told The South­ern Gazette on Sept. 25.

Re­quest de­nied

In cor­re­spon­dence to the town on Aug. 23, the the­atre board asked to keep us­ing the Bait De­pot. Coun­cil held a spe­cial meet­ing on Sept. 10 to ad­dress the re­quest. A de­ci­sion was made to reaf­firm an agree­ment signed with the the­atre board in June that the or­ga­ni­za­tion would va­cate the build­ing by the end of Septem­ber.

Bur­fitt, Stan Burt and Clay­ton Welsh, all serve as coun­cil­lors with the town and are also on the the­atre’s board. They are not part of coun­cil’s dis­cus­sions about the the­atre due to po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est.

Dur­ing coun­cil’s meet­ing on Sept. 20, Bur­fitt did ex­press his dis­ap­point­ment with the out­come.

The Bait De­pot, lo­cated on the Grand Bank wa­ter­front, has been used by the spe­cial events com­mit­tee dur­ing the town’s an­nual sum­mer fes­ti­val for more than a decade. The build­ing was avail­able this year as the fes­ti­val had been forced to re­lo­cate for the past two sum­mers while work was be­ing done on the wharf.

The first phase of the wharf project has been com­pleted, how­ever, and while at some point there will be a sec­ond stage, there are no in­di­ca­tions of when that might hap­pen.

“The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of cit­i­zens in the town want the sum­mer fes­ti­val back on the wharf,” Matthew told The South­ern Gazette, adding that means us­ing the Bait De­pot.

Lim­ited op­tions

Bur­fitt said he had hoped there could be a work­around so that the spe­cial events com­mit­tee could still use the build­ing dur­ing the sum­mer fes­ti­val.

“We are still go­ing to be search­ing for an­other venue within our com­mu­nity and we have a bit of time to work on that,” he told The South­ern Gazette.

The ques­tion is, where? Grand Bank has few avail­able op­tions and there is some con­cern the the­atre could be lost, pos­si­bly to an­other town.

One avail­able build­ing in the town is the Pen­te­costal Church, which has been put up for sale. Ac­quir­ing the church and turn­ing it into a the­atre, how­ever, would need the in­volve­ment of the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments.

Money has been in­vested in other com­mu­ni­ties in the prov­ince where the­atre is a prom­i­nent tourism at­trac­tion, Matthews noted.

Last year, com­bined fund­ing of $4.2 mil­lion was al­lo­cated for the con­struc­tion of a new mul­ti­func­tional the­atre com­plex in Cow Head on the North­ern Penin­sula.

With ob­sta­cles also come op­por­tu­ni­ties, Matthews pointed out.

“I’m con­fi­dent the the­atre will do fine. They have a good board of di­rec­tors, they’re en­er­gized, they’re very knowl­edge­able,” he said.

“But they do need a sta­ble home.”

FILE PHOTO

The Grand Bank Re­gional The­atre was forced out of its home in the Sa­muel J. Harris Build­ing this spring due to the struc­ture’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing con­di­tion.

FILE PHOTO

The Grand Bank Re­gional The­atre found a tem­po­rary home for the 2018 sea­son in the Bait De­pot.

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