Merritt, B.C., one step closer to performing arts centre

The Rural Dividend Fund is contributing $500,000 to the project, which is estimated to cost approximately $5 million.

Still a long way to go for $5M project

Artist's rendering of the performing arts centre in Merritt, B.C. (Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society)

After seven years of fundraising and planning for a performing arts centre, the city of Merritt, B.C., is one step closer to achieving that goal, thanks to just-announced funding from the provincial government.

The Rural Dividend Fund, a B.C. fund for enhancing rural communities, is contributing $500,000 to the project, which is estimated to cost approximately $5 million.  

"It's very, very much appreciated," Kurt Christopherson, the chair of the Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. "Ìt's been a long haul."

Right now, theatre performances are held at the city's civic centre, which Christopherson said is "inadequate," because it requires setting up lighting, the sound system and the stage every time the theatre society needs to use it.

Land for the performing arts centre was purchased by the community theatre society in 2013. (Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society)

In addition to the live performance stage, the new centre would have three movie theatres. Merritt has been without a movie theatre since 1994 — when the last one burnt down.

More fundraising to be done

The plan is for the centre to be self-sufficient, not relying on government grants, which Christopherson said will be made easier by income from the movie theatres.

Even though this contribution is a big help for the theatre society, there's a long way to go.

Construction alone is estimated to ring in at $3.2 million, and the society doesn't want to start on the project until all of the funds — $5 mllion — have been raised.

"We don't want to put up foundations and then have it sit there," he said.

The lay-out of the one-day performing arts centre in Merritt. (Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society)

The land for the performing arts centre was purchased by the Nicola Valley Community Theatre Society in 2013. 

Christopherson said the society is applying for other grants for the centre, and is planning a big fundraising event in coming months. If funds can be raised quickly, he said he'd like to see the centre up-and-running within the next three years. 

Economic boost

Merritt's Tolko Mill closed in 2016, laying off more than 200 people. The mayor of Merritt said a performing art centre will help recover some of the financial loss the city and its residents experienced during that time. 

"These funds will greatly assist with the economic diversification and economic recovery of our community after the loss of one of our major employers," Merritt Mayor Neil Menard said in a statement.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

About the Author

Courtney Dickson

Broadcast and Digital Journalist

Courtney Dickson is a journalist working in Kamloops, B.C. Email her at courtney.dickson@cbc.ca with story tips.