Citadel Theatre bracing for LRT construction
'They'll go some place where it’s less hassle,' worries theatre's executive director
The shows will go on, but the Citadel Theatre says the upheaval of 102nd Avenue to make way for the construction of the Valley Line LRT will send business stage left, threatening precious revenue for the downtown theatre.
The theatre is at the heart of a massive construction project that will rip up the avenue between 95th and 102nd streets starting in the fall of 2015.
The theatre's biggest concern is that people will go elsewhere to take in a show.
"They'll go some place where it's less hassle, and there's lots of choice," said Penny Ritco, the theatre's executive director.
The construction of the Valley Line LRT, that once built will link downtown to Millwoods, is expected to take four years — which in Ritco's mind will translate to a drop in revenue.
"If we do a show like Mary Poppins, or something like that, there's a lot of people that come to the Citadel for the first time and if it seems daunting, and they choose not to come, there's a financial threat and that's worrisome," she said.
The Citadel Theatre is a not-for profit organization that relies heavily on ticket sales and revenue from community groups that rent space within the theatre.
"We sell about $5 million of tickets a year, if we lost $500,000 a year for four years in a row we'd be in major, major trouble."
The city said it's aware of the concerns of businesses along 102nd Avenue and will do everything it can to make sure places like the Citadel aren't disrupted to the detriment of their bottom line. City officials have said no compensation will be offered to businesses affected by the construction work.
"During construction we focus on making sure we maintain access to all the businesses and facilities along the avenue," said Valley Line project manager Brad Smid, adding there will be signs to direct pedestrians into buildings.
Short-term pain for long-term gain
Ritco said the timing couldn't be worse. The downtown theatre is celebrating 50 years in Edmonton this year and instead of welcoming people through their brand new entrance bordering 102nd Avenue they'll be staring at a dug up street.
The Citadel puts on 300 performances on nine main stages every year.
The city has said the major cross streets in the area, such as 100th and 97th streets, will remain open to traffic.
Smid said in the long-term the construction of the $1.8-billion LRT project will transform downtown making it more pedestrian-friendly with less vehicle traffic in the area.
That's a vision Ritco can support, she said, adding that she thinks it will be great for Edmonton. It's the many months between this coming fall and 2020 that has Ritco wondering how many people will be filling up the seats inside the Citadel Theatre.