Trying to make the city-owned Prince George Playhouse a viable facility for entertainment industry groups by offering a $ 500,000 band-aid solution could be a challenge, the most recent facility manager said. .

Trying to make the city-owned Prince George Playhouse a viable facility for entertainment industry groups by offering a $ 500,000 band-aid solution could be a challenge, the most recent facility manager said. .

For starters, the 297-space facility only had 135 parking spaces to begin with and now it’s down to 65.

“There wasn’t enough parking to get started – not for a full production with a big cast, a big orchestra and a big backing team,” said Judy Russell of Chainement Productions who acted as facilities manager. “So for our shows, we struggled to park enough. “

For smaller organizations, Russell thinks the facility might work.

“If the parking lot can be cured and the Band-Aid fix occurs, then maybe people could squeal a bit longer,” she said. “I don’t know if that would include us. I am not sure. But there is no other place to go.

Accessibility is also an issue, Russell noted, when it comes to members of the public of all ages, including seniors with limited mobility and families with young children, coming from across the parking lot. or simply having to look for another parking lot. t make access to the theater very safe, especially in snow or even a rainstorm.

“Now you have the little Playhouse surrounded by traffic,” Russell said. “There are going to be people in and out of apartment complexes, restaurants and hotels and part of the reason it was such a great little place was that it was kind of a little island.”

Russell said she had always enjoyed working at the Playhouse, but the challenges of managing the facility outweighed the joys of presenting there most of the time.

“During our tenure there as a management company, the access roads and parking lot situation and the constant construction around the facility made the presentation very, very difficult for anyone,” Russell said. . “This has made renting very difficult for people and what people don’t understand is that anyone looking to do a one-time or two-party presentation is so limited by the number of seats in the facility that they don’t have to. does not succeed. financially viable for tour companies, unless it’s like a small dance company that knows for sure that it can sell 500 tickets and can do two shows.

It would be great, but for others coming with road tour expenses to pay by entering a 297 seat theater it would not be worth it and on the other hand increase the price of tickets to that it works would be prohibitive for theatergoers.

“We tried to do it on our own and tried to charge people $ 40 to see some amazing acts,” Russell said. “If you do the math on that, it’s not a lot of money to go on tour and then pay everyone involved – people don’t know the production business is extremely expensive – you need artists. and marketers and producers and musicians and cleaning staff, dealership staff and ticket sellers – everyone has to get paid – this is not a concert of volunteers.

So that’s what was going on while the Russell’s were running the Playhouse.

They kept trying to fix it, but between the constant construction and the bursting of a water pipe that flooded the basement, it didn’t stop for a few years, Russell added.

“I think it stopped people’s habits and stopped them from coming to the place, stopped them from renting the place,” Russell said. “There was a whole lot at stake here. And the structural problems that they talk about solving and that we have been trying to solve for so long have come long before us and we haven’t had a lot of effort to solve them.

The trouble started as early as the 1996 renovation. During this renovation, the building was finished with a sealed exterior insulation finish system that was in common use in the 1990s and was not functioning properly.

On December 4, some of the stucco cladding on the west side of the performance hall tower fell and landed on the lower roof level and on the ground nearby during a storm. A preliminary inspection revealed significant rot at the site where the stucco failed.

The city hired a contractor to investigate the condition of the building, including creating an exploratory opening in the cladding and using a probe to detect humidity.

Water passed the exterior cladding and entered the building.

Council approved the repair as well as the approval of $ 271,500 to upgrade the theater’s rigging system to improve safety before the building reopens.

Without the repairs, the building would not be safe to operate, according to the contractor’s report.

In the long term, the building will require major structural repairs, new exterior cladding and roofing, and replacement for the 25 year old HVAC system. The estimated costs to repair the building were $ 5.17 million, with an additional $ 1.5 million needed for new parking.

Russell said she knew the City of Prince george recognizes how difficult this has been and realizes the situation and strives to find positive ways to resolve the situation.

“And I applaud them and I appreciate that,” Russell added. “We have been at this establishment for 40 years, I met my husband there, we built our life there and it is a place that matters to us, but it has really outlived its abilities and without much change – s ‘they could see it clearly to give it some office space, a rehearsal room, a renovation – add a balcony with 200 seats then we would have a nice little facility but then when you look at everything you think – why don’t you just start over?

-with files by Arthur Williams

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