With opening night jitters behind them, the dedicated volunteers at the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre are now preparing for an extended run for their new venue.
“Right now, we’re open as a theatre,” said foundation president Grant Harder, adding they have already hosted several successful shows and other bookings for the space have been coming in.
“There’s been tremendous progress. It’s up and running and we’ve got a live theatre in Lacombe. It’s just fantastic and we’re looking for more ideas of shows to bring to town.”
Lacombe County gave the foundation a vote of confidence earlier this month, when council agreed to support in principle the foundation’s plan to purchase the Lacombe Trinity Lutheran Church.
“Bless their hearts,” said Harder with a laugh.
“I think asking Lacombe County to give us support in principle strengthens our position with the city council here in Lacombe.”
Harder said the foundation is working with the City of Lacombe to create a funding model that works for all. One option is to have the city buy the building and turn over operation to the foundation.
Another, and perhaps most likely option, is to have the city guarantee a portion of the foundation’s mortgage on the building, which would be managed by Lacombe Performing Arts.
“This model has been used on a number of different projects in Lacombe,” Harder said, citing the skateboard park and Lacombe Athletic Park. “They used the same kind of funding formula to fund those projects.
“So, it’s not something new to the City of Lacombe, it’s just new that it’s the theatre.”
It is expected to cost between $900,000 to $1.2 million to buy the church. The foundation has applied for government grants and is expected to hear whether they have been successful at the end of March.
It will then be more clear how much of a loan guarantee from the city will be required.
Given the ambitious scale of the project, the foundation plans to tackle it in stages. First, the theatre, which has been spruced up with paint, stage improvements and additional lighting, will be operated as it stands.
“But the long-range plan would be to add on to it and build a 300- to 350-seat performance hall.
“Right now, we seat about 150 people. It’s not quite as big as we would have liked ideally, but it is a really good starting point for us here in Lacombe.”
The first shows have already drawn good crowds, led by a packed house for the opening night show by Flat Iron Jazz Band.
The City of Lacombe has already offered to provide up to $50,000 in ongoing operation funding. The exact sum won’t be known until all other financial details have been finalized.
Harder said the arts tend to be underfunded compared with sports facilities in most communities. However, local studies have shown a performance space is high on the list of local “wants” in Lacombe.
“It’s consistently within the top three or the top five of all of the surveys they have done.”