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Georgian Theatre could raise its curtain again next year

'It’s exactly the kind of community benefit I think the reinvestment reserve was set up to cover,' says deputy-mayor
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Enter Georgian Theatre next year, stage right.

City councillors have set aside $300,000 in the 2022 operating and capital budget to reopen the theatre, which is located on Georgian College’s Barrie campus.

Deputy Mayor Barry Ward noted the 2021 budget eliminated funding for Georgian Theatre.

“(It was) probably the most commented-on item we passed, as far as I’m concerned. People were very upset,” he said. “As it turned out, because of COVID, it probably didn’t hurt us to close for last year.

“But I think there is a good case for keeping this (theatre) open until we can create a new performing arts centre in the city, so this only affects the coming year," Ward added. 

Plans for a new performing arts centre will be presented in January by the project's task force. Among the options being considered is a 900-seat main theatre, a 350-seat second theatre and a 5,000-square-foot multi-purpose room, costing $55 million to $60 million plus. No site has been identified.

The old Fisher Auditorium, at the former Barrie Central Collegiate site, has been demolished.

Georgian Theatre funding in 2022 breaks down to $203,329 for operating expenses and $96,671 to allow staff to address unanticipated capital costs associated with reinstating the theatre for performances.

This funding would come from the city’s reinvestment reserve, so the $300,000 cost would not affect next year’s property taxes, which are slated to increase by 2.92 per cent in 2022, pending final approval from council.

“It’s exactly the kind of community benefit I think the reinvestment reserve was set up to cover,” Ward said.

“My discussions with arts groups are that there are lots of them that are planning to open in some fashion and having Georgian (Theatre) available to them with a fairly limited expenditure I think is very reasonable at this point,” said Coun. Clare Riepma.

“Hopefully it’s utilized,” said Coun. Jim Harris, chairman of the performing arts centre task force. “That means we’re back to a much more normal life and enjoying things like theatre. And if it’s not, (the money) doesn’t get spent.”

City staff have said approximately 30 events were held annually in the Georgian Theatre, with dance recitals representing the majority of these bookings before the pandemic. The theatre has 600-plus seats.

When council decided not to resume the operating agreement with Georgian Theatre in early 2021, more than 2,500 people signed a petition asking that the deal be restored.

City council will consider final approval of the 2022 funding of $300,000 for Georgian Theatre at its Dec. 6 meeting.