OUR VIEW: Cultural hub marks 15 years

The Mary Winspear Centre is the Saanich Peninsula's community hall.

Congratulations to the Mary Winspear Centre and to all of the dedicated people behind the Memorial Park Society.

The former is the entertainment hub of the Saanich Peninsula, built 15 years ago after a group of people worked hard in the community to replace an aging community hall with what would eventually become the area’s hub of local, regional and even international entertainment.

The latter, in case you didn’t know, is the Society that oversees the operation of the Mary Winspear Centre — as well as other holdings, most notably Blue Heron Park.

Yet while the Mary Winspear Centre is known for its robust entertainment offerings, there is more to it than that.

In addition to a large arts collection from the Winspear family — the Centre’s namesakes — there’s a smaller display honouring area veterans and a wall of local art, from photography to, well, you name it.

And on top of that, the Bodine Hall plays host to local meetings, events, dinners and dances — it’s the community hall for the Saanich Peninsula and the spirit of the building that came before it resides within those walls.

In 2001, the old SANSCHA Hall made way for a new, more modern building. Services were expanded and the Charlie White Theatre was christened, establishing the Centre’s importance in the community quite solidly at the west end of Beacon Avenue.

Next week, it’s the Centre’s 15th anniversary. It’s certainly a milestone and the date will not only honour those who helped make it a possibility, but mark the beginning of the next 15 years.

There are challenges ahead for the Memorial Park Society. It’s no secret they have to build up their coffers in order to keep the facility in top shape. They even felt the blow of local politics when a deal to lease out a portion of their land for a new Sidney fire hall fell through.

Yet, the Society pressed on. They haven’t put their eggs in only one basket and there is still the rest of the community out there — hopefully ready and willing to continue to support the Centre and its big role in the artistic and cultural atmosphere of the Saanich Peninsula.