The Banff Centre announced plans to move its performance spaces into the centre of the mountain town west of Calgary this week at an estimated cost of $900 million.

Banff Centre president Jeff Melanson is behind the plan. He says the plan is to make the centre more relevant for those who visit Banff. 

"What we'd like to do is basically take all our performance spaces off the side of the mountain and move them right into downtown Banff and make really the downtown more vital as a result."

'We have a lot of fundraising to do, but we're a very ambitious institution.'- Banff Centre president Jeff Melanson

Melanson says the centre hopes the move will increase its profile. 

"When you look at the four million or so visitors that come through Banff and some of the studies that have been done about their experience here, interactions with the Banff Centre have not been high on their list."

"We're currently the largest arts and creativity incubator in the world — 4,000 artists through the centre, 2,000 mathematicians, 2,000 business leaders so the scale in incredible and actually the output is remarkable but we do need to do a better job of letting people know what we're doing and how they can participate," says Melanson.

Plan includes facility upgrades

The plans also includes many new buildings and some upgrades to existing facilities. 

"What we're looking at is performance spaces. So four theatres, an art gallery, as well as a new broadcast centre, studio buildings and and all new residence facilities," says Melanson.

Ideally, Melanson says they would love to have it right downtown. 

"We have been in early discussions with Parks Canada and the town of Banff about the 200 block of Banff Avenue."

The project and price may seem big, but Melanson feels the institution is based on big ideas. 

"We were founded in the midst of the great depression and our founding president Donald Cameron was an incredible visionary to build something this and really what we're doing is extending that legacy."

"Certainly the price tag is a big one," says Melanson. "We have a lot of fundraising to do, but we're a very ambitious institution, we're living in an ambitious province and I think the time is right for big thinking."