It looks like the Ladysmith Little Theatre building will stay in the hands of the Ladysmith Players, as just two more steps need to be taken before a deal is finalized that would see the community theatre society own the theatre.
School District 68 (Nanaimo-Ladysmith) and the Lady Smith’s Little Theatre Society (now called the Ladysmith Players Society) have signed an agreement for the society to purchase the former Diamond Elementary School building on Christie Road from the school district.
The theatre society has been leasing the building and using it as its playhouse since 2003. Now, as a result of the school district’s asset management plan, arrangements have been made for the society to purchase the building at a cost of $150,000.
Under the terms of the sale, the district is taking an interest-free mortgage on the property for five years to allow the theatre society time to raise funds to pay off the mortgage.
The deal will be finalized once it has received the Minister of Education’s approval and the approval of a bylaw by the board of education, according to a news release.
A signing ceremony was held at the school district offices on Dec. 21.
“We are very pleased that we have been able to make this arrangement with the theatre society,” board of education chair Jamie Brennan said in the release. “This has accomplished the district’s goal of selling properties it no longer requires for educational purposes, while at the same time supporting a valuable community-based organization.”
Bruce Mason, past president of the theatre society, is excited about the agreement with the school district and is confident the money will be raised.
“I feel quite confident the community will support it, and it will end up being paid for before the five years are up,” he said. “It’s quite an asset for the community, and it’s quite nice to preserve that building and keep the school there for a memory for those who attended. It’s good for everyone.
“It’s nice it’s staying in community hands, and it’s staying in the community and not privately owned by a developer. It gives it more protection.”
Mason says the society will now be applying for charitable status so that it can accept donations and provide tax receipts.
“Once we get that, it will be required by law that if ever we wanted to disband the theatre or the theatre group, all the assets would be turned over to another charitable group or an arts or theatre group in the community,” he added. “It could never go into private hands and would always be in the community.”
Once the deal is finalized, the theatre society will have five years to raise the $150,000, starting June 1.
“We’re hoping we can and hoping we can get some grants,” said Mason.
Mason says it’s too early to say what kind of activities the theatre society will do to raise the money, but he does expect to hold some fundraisers.
The theatre society will continue paying rent to the school district until June 1 and then will pay the same amount each month toward its mortgage.
Mason feels the Ladysmith Little Theatre is in “really good shape” right now.
“I think it’ll go forward quite strongly,” he said. “I think it will grow from here. It’s very important to own your own space when you are a community theatre because you have a home, and you have control over your own space; you’re not sharing space with someone else who has nothing to do with theatre.”
Built in 1912, Diamond School had originally been a one-room school, with an additional room added during the 1950s. The building had been vacant since approximately 1985.
In January 2004, work began to transform the building into an actual theatre, and the theatre opened its doors to the public March 24, 2004.