Stelly’s Theatre plan needs help from Central Saanich residents

Sponsor help needed to build a new theatre at Stelly’s Secondary.

The conceptual interior rendering of the proposed Stelly’s Secondary School Theatre.

The word ‘community’ will go a long way in the success of a proposed theatre for Stelly’s Secondary School.

An effort to replace the school’s existing stage started with a small group of parents and teachers who decided students needed a new facility.

“It’s pretty clear that there’s an obvious need for a new facility at the school,” says Ron Broda. “What’s there is totally inadequate.”

Broda, president of the Society for the Community Arts Theatre at Stelly’s (SCATS), held a community meeting last weekend to discuss the plans and the first phase of the feasibility study.

“We now know what’s possible,” he said.

“We now know that a good fit in the school would be a theatre in the area of 400 to 450 seats and what features it should have.”

He said due to the economic and political climate in B.C., the only way a new facility will happen is if there’s some significant community involvement — financially.

SCATS is at the stage where they need to get a show of public support and get some sponsors who are willing to step forward.

Once that’s in place, Broda said they will be in a good position to go to senior levels of government for additional grants.

“We looked at a lot of theatres around the province and one of the models that jumps to mind is the Kay Meek Centre for the Performing Arts in West Vancouver,” he said, adding a retired music teacher, Kay Meek and her husband left a large endowment, which got the theatre going.

There were approximately 30 people at the meeting.  Mayor of Central Saanich Ryan Windsor was there, along with James Lam, manager of the Capital Regional District Arts Development Service.

Broda discussed SCATS’ dream of a state of the art facility for both school and community use, the steps toward the dream, outlining three key areas. Those include questions of what the site can physically accommodate, what support there is for the project in the broader community and what business plan would support the project over the long term.

HCMA Architecture and Design was hired to do the feasibility study and various proposed plans were presented.

The architects did what they call a ‘test for fit analysis’ because when SCATS started, their grand dream was to have a theatre of 800 seats, similar to that of the Port Theatre in Nanaimo.

“And our architect actually designed the Port Theatre in Nanaimo so he’s very familiar with it,” said Broda.

They looked at three potential locations around the school, preferring one.

“Location one was the obvious one that stood out to us right at the beginning and once we looked at things in a little more detail, it was still the one that [made] the most sense, but we had to eliminate all the possibilities,” said Broda.

Location one occupies a section of the parking lot to the north east of the school entry.

Broda said the next stage means SCATS will need to find support and come up with an actual theatre design.

“There’s a lot of support for it. The need is clear,” he said.

SCATS doesn’t have a hard price tag on the proposal, as they don’t have a floor plan or design. But Broda said similar facilities fall into the range of $20 million.

Broda will meet with the Saanich District Board of Education at their finance, facilities and technology meeting to give them an update.

He said SCATS will also need to negotiate a formal use agreement with School District 63 to make decisions around how the facility will be operated, along with managing how bookings will be made and who has priority use of the facility.

“The whole reason we’re doing the theatre … is to have a proper facility for our own students at Stelly’s, but in my mind the priority will be Stelly’s students, Saanich District students and then the community,” he said, adding that there will have to be a formula that works for everybody.