City council tables CAT’s funding request

  • Sep. 19, 2012 2:52 p.m.

City council opted to table an emergency funding request from Central Alberta Theatre at Monday’s meeting.

CAT, which has been in dire financial straits, put forward a request for interim funding in the amount of $60,000 to support their operating expenses in the short-term. The troupe, which was formed more than 40 years ago in Red Deer, has outstanding debts of more than $700,000.

In the last year or so the situation deteriorated rapidly because of major cost overruns related to remodeling the City Centre Stage plus the additional expense of running two theatres.

In an August letter to CAT’s members, the board revealed that they currently can’t afford to make all the Society’s payments. Considerable sums of money are owed to the builders, the bank, the City Centre Stage landlord and a number of other creditors. When put together the society has outstanding debts of over $700,000 and monthly commitments it can no longer sustain.

The City of Red Deer has an operational lease agreement with CAT for the operation and maintenance of the Memorial Centre. In the fall of 2011, CAT opened the City Centre Stage in the building that formerly housed the Uptown Cinema. Meanwhile, CAT had also indicated to the City that without some bridge funding, they would need to discontinue operating the Memorial Centre and turn this facility back over to the City, according to council notes.

Lawrence Hobbs, CAT’s vice president, said the organization has worked hard to form a plan for financial survival via reconfiguration and diversification of CAT. “We need to be much more broad and inclusive,” he said, adding the vision is to build a collaborative community theatre society.

“The mission is to provide opportunities for people to participate in theatre,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. We also need to more inclusive and we need to have collaborative partnerships.”

As it stands, CAT simply isn’t sustainable, he said. “Our financial situation is absolutely dire.

“We need to do whatever it takes for financial survival.”

They have also applied for two provincial grants but to date have no information as to where those grants are at.

Ultimately, council opted to table the funding request for further discussion and a decision at a future meeting. The tabling motion noted that the extra time would allow CAT more time to outline their solvency plan.

“Mr. Hobbs makes a compelling case of the future going forward for the theatre although past indications give me a great sense of hesitancy going forward,” said Councillor City Jefferies. “I’m a little concerned about putting more money at this point in time not knowing the longer term or mid-term plan for certain. But I hope the cat lands on its feet.”