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Editorial: Closed theatre could fill a community need

A business loss might be turned into an opportunity with some local effort.

It is hard to imagine a city Yorkton’s size not having a movie theatre, yet that is the situation at present with the announcement a few weeks ago that the Tower Theatre would not be re-opening after being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions for months. 

The closure leaves a definite hole in terms of entertainment options in the city, and certainly has many wondering if a new theatre might look Yorkton’s way now. 

But, what about the Tower Theatre building, with its theatre seating, stage area, storage areas and potential office space – could it be the community theatre space that has been talked about for years in Yorkton? 

The idea of a community theatre of some sort is certainly not new, being brought up at least as far back as community visioning meetings held when James Wilson was mayor. 

Now some will question the need given both high schools have theatres which can be used by outside groups, but those facilities come with limitations. Since they are school facilities school needs come first, which limits public access through the school year. 

Since they are school facilities the sale of alcohol at events is often limited or simply not allowed either, and that can be a revenue generator that makes projects more viable. 

So a public facility has merit. 

But, it comes down to who pays? Who manages? Who has access? 

It is easy to suggest the funder be the City of Yorkton, as they should have some desire to fund the arts as they do sports. 

To the City’s credit they do fund the Godfrey Dean Cultural Centre, the public library and have set aside dollars for the brick mill project, which all fall under arts and culture. 

But of course the investment is hardly the same as compared to the Gallagher Centre expansion, the new Deer Park clubhouse currently being planned, or the second ice surface renewal or replacement on the horizon. 

So yes the City would need to be at the table chequebook in-hand to be part of any project that would look to take on the building as a community theatre. 

However, they need not be leading the process. 

If the facility is to be a community theatre the community should lead the project. 

That process is likely best-served by key users taking the first step to meet and discuss the idea – Yorkton Arts Council, Paper Bag Players, Yorkton Film Festival, Free My Muse, the adult band and various dance troupes being logical groups that could have an interest in such a facility. 

With the help of someone such as Lisa Washington, Community Development Manager with the City to facilitate discussion and help to focus on funding sources the idea could and more importantly should at least be looked at. 

It costs nothing to sit down and talk about the potential of a community theatre, and just maybe things fall into place and a long time need gets filled for Yorkton.