This article was originally written for KHJ and published here on their website.
Fredericton’s fanciest venue for live theatre needs what could be a multi-million dollar makeover.
Tim Yerxa is the executive director of The Playhouse, and he said it’s at the end of its useful life. Last year, the cost of maintaining the building was 400 thousand dollars.
Yerxa said it’s hard for people to understand what’s wrong with the building when they come for performances.
“Because it’s not something you can see, it’s really the guts of the building that are the problem” said Yerxa.
He said the building is structurally sound and perfectly safe, but the costs of keeping it that way are only going to go up.
Yerxa didn’t have an estimate of what it would cost to renovate the inside and keep the exisiting building, but he said the last consultant’s report concluded it would be more economical to simply replace the entire building.
“We understand and appreciate the importance of the Playhouse, what it brings to the community. We do have, and we have to work this out collectively, we have an issue” said Brad Woodside.
That issue is the amount of debt the city is able to take on to finance projects. There is a policy of debt reduction and an eight per cent limit in place which the city is not able to exceed.
“There’s a number of major projects that are out there and people are starting to make representations. I think it’s only fair to let the community know that we’re looking at 2016 and after that date before we’re in a position to really tackle major projects which would be in the millions of dollars” said Woodside.
Councillor Dan Keenan encouraged the board of directors to approach the surrounding communities with the report and the need for infrastructure renewal since people who attend the events at The Playhouse aren’t just from Fredericton.
He also asked about the possibility running more summer programming as a tourist attraction to increase revenues.
Revenues from ticket sales made up 58 per cent of The Playhouse’s 2.2 million dollar budget last year. Thirty per cent of funding was from the City of Fredericton, nine per cent from grants, and three per cent from donations.
“It’s very difficult when you want to spend that money on programming rather than trying to keep the building up” said Bruce Grandy.
Maintenance of The Playhouse facilities was 18 per cent of the budget last year. Twenty-five per cent was spent on operations, 42 per cent on programming, and 15 per cent on administration.
Patrick Flanagan is the president of The Playhouse Board of the Directors.
“It is a bit of getting over the shock, and coming to believe that this place really needs something major and trying to figure out how they’re going to do it” said Flanagan.
Councillor Kate Rogers said council is very aware of the timing of 2016 or 2017 for the money to be available, but she is pleased to see the board doing so much of the ground work in the years leading up to that.
“It takes courage and it takes commitment to think that far ahead” she said.
“To be putting this type of energy three years before that is a great commitment from the board and if the board wasn’t doing it noone else would and it’s work that needs to be done” said Rogers.