Red Deer’s new City council made the right call in agreeing to extend funding to Central Alberta Theatre so renovations on the old Uptown Theatre downtown could continue.
CAT recently ran into significant and unexpected costs in its endeavour to take over the Uptown Theatre – a plan that was unveiled earlier this fall.
It was great news when first an-nounced as the Uptown, located in the heart of downtown, has sat empty for years.
But just a couple of weeks ago, the unexpected requirement to add a fire suppression system throughout the building added another $125,000 to the cost of renovations.
An urgent request for $75,000 was presented to City council last week and they ultimately approved the amount – $35,000 in the form of a grant taken out of the Downtown Re-vitalization Reserve and $40,000 in the form of a loan.
The latter will be taken out of the Tax Stabilization Reserve.
The loan will have to be paid back to the City over a four-year period. (Councillor Chris Stephan voted against the funding request).
Had council refused the request, it’s unlikely CAT could have proceeded with the project unless there had been a quick and generous response from the corporate community in particu-lar.
But council opted to support CAT and now the project can move for-ward with a completion date set for next May.
It was the right decision, as down-town development is a critical com-ponent of Red Deer’s evolution as a growing community.
Having a new and thriving theatre space in the downtown not only benefits CAT but Red Deer in gen-eral.
It’s also good to see the follow-through by most of council on their campaign promises to focus on and improve downtown development
Once open, this new venue will pro-vide much-needed positive activity in the downtown core.
Other businesses in the area will cer-tainly benefit from this activity, which is expected to include every-thing from live theatre to meeting spaces and other performances.
Spin-offs from the new and exciting development could offer better utili-zation of the City’s core including late night shopping as well.
Although there have been calls for tightening the City’s purse strings as a tough budget is looming, we agree with the council’s decision.
Ultimately, Central Alberta Theatre has also enriched the Red Deer com-munity arts scene for 40 years and deserves a hand in its time of need.
Their dedication to offering the pub-lic a range of theatrical shows and lots of out-of-town performers is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, and it’s heartening to see their plans for growth.