Langley City is looking into the feasibility of bringing a small theatre to its downtown core after Cascades Casino closed its popular Summit Theatre.
“Three months ago, council took a road trip to Vancouver and looked at two small theatres there. One of them was the (370-seat) Cultch and we took in a play,” said Mayor Ted Schaffer.
“I could see a theatre going in at Innes Plaza. A performing arts centre would bring a lot of people to our downtown core, especially in the evening, which is needed.”
But Schaffer said the City needs to hear from the public.
“We need to see that there is interest in this, that we have the community’s support, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
“It’s an expensive venture,” he noted. He expects to bring it up at the next council meeting Jan. 15.
In 2014, a $50,000 study was completed and presented on what a theatre could look like for Langley, as well as the estimated cost. The City, the Township, the school district, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Trinity Western University each contributed $10,000 to fund the study.
The results showed that the ideal theatre would seat between 600 and 650 people with room for another 200 seats. Estimated cost was between $30 million and $37 million.
At the time, City Councillor Gayle Martin worried that “a lot of times, governments do studies and they sit on the shelf and gather dust.”
Township council received the same report, but there was minimal discussion on the study’s findings.
Schaffer said in order for a theatre to recoup its costs, it needs to have quality entertainment that will draw large attendance.
“But bringing in good entertainment can be expensive. People don’t always want to pay $40 to $50 to see a show,” he said.
The Summit Theatre was located in a casino, meaning only patrons 19 and older could utilize the facility.
Without the Summit Theatre, Langley is without a proper performing arts centre for a combined population of more than 120,000 people.
“We are the only community from UBC to Hope that doesn’t have a proper theatre. Chief Sepass is too small and because it is attached to a school, you are limited in what entertainment can be brought there,” said Peter Luongo, the founder of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble who has been urging Langley to build a proper performing arts centre for more than a decade.
“There are so many dance troupes, school functions, entertainers, even a great ukulele group I know that would love an arts centre to perform at,” Luongo said on Thursday.
He was so passionate about getting a theatre here that he, along with Langley’s Rotary clubs, started Langley Has Talent, with some the competition’s ticket proceeds going toward a feasibility study for an arts centre.
In 2015, the annual talent competition wrapped up after five seasons.The show, which had good attendance and featured a variety of acts, from opera to silks to solo artists, was presented in co-operation by Langley’s four Rotary Clubs.
To Luongo, the public’s response demonstrated that the event had achieved its goals of showcasing local talent and helping to make the community aware of the need for a dedicated performing arts centre in the Langleys.
Funds raised through the competition went toward another study that looked at combining an athletic facility with a theatre, possibly in the Township, said Luongo.
Last week, Mayor Jack Froese said council would not undertake any large projects in the near future because there is a municipal election coming this year.
“We will let the next council determine what the next project is,” he said.