Nanaimo Centre Stage first came on the scene under a spotlight of controversy.
City council of the day approved acquisition of the aging building at 25 Victoria Cres. for $460,000 after lobbying from the community’s cultural leaders.
After being approved, then Mayor Gary Korpan expressed his outrage at the purchase – he said it was a waste of taxpayer money.
Fast-forward four years, and the facility is proving to be just that, only now it has been discovered that an additional $800,000 will be needed for exterior renovations, possibly completed over a five-year term.
Originally purchased to fill a community performance void in the city’s south end, Nanaimo Centre Stage is already redundant. Other options exist in the area, including much more modern facilities at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre and, to a lesser extent, Malaspina Theatre.
On Monday, city council hinted it will not throw good money after bad, but did agree to discuss whether spending that kind of money is in the taxpayers’ best interest.
Clearly it isn’t, but with a new cultural plan being developed, it’s a good time to revisit the role Nanaimo Centre Stage is playing today and how small, fringe performances can be perpetuated in that part of the city should council walk away.
Before that decision is made, those who do support the theatre will also have an important role. Whether the facility stays or goes may depend on how strong the community voice is in its support – a cast of characters will certainly need to step up to the mike and defend it.
From a taxpayers’ perspective, however, the whole situation is playing out like a dark Shakespearian comedy.
Hopefully council can see through the charade and stop the bleeding this time around.