True North to buy Burton Cummings Theatre
True North's biggest priority is upgrading the seats on main floor and first balcony, True North VP says
After two years of running the theatre, True North Sports and Entertainment will buy Winnipeg's historic Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts.
- True North takes over Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg
- True North set to take over Burton Cummings Theatre
This is exactly the kind of deal the theatre's volunteer board has been looking for as it has struggled to keep open, said David Sherman, past chair of the Walker Theatre Performing Arts Group Inc.
"I'm just really happy," Sherman said, who joined the group in the 1990s. "When I took over as chair our goal was to keep the building open until we found a deal like this so it could take the venue to the next level."
True North isn't releasing details of the deal but factored into the deal is the hundreds of thousands of dollars True North has put into the performance venue so far, said Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president, venues and entertainment with True North.
Since 2014, True North has been booking shows and managing renovations to the theatre, including upgrades to the back house, dressing rooms and overall maintenance.
True North's vision for the theatre under its ownership is to rehabilitate the space, said Donnelly.
"It was almost lifeless before," he said. "Our goal is to get it into working condition, to bring it to a level that we're proud of, that we hope that the city's proud of, that performers who come in and perform here can be proud of."
Donnelly said the company has a long list of big and small renovations in the works for the Burt, as it is commonly known.
The biggest priority is to upgrade the seats, he said. So far about 200 seats on the main floor have been replaced and about 100 seats on the first balcony have been re-upholstered and re-cushioned.
Donnelly said he hopes the other 800 seats or so will be upgraded in the next two months.
The air conditioning, exterior of the building, landscaping, toilets and concessions also need some work.
"We have quite an extensive list," he said.
Donnelly said for now, he sees True North keeping the Burt as a performance hall.
"We want it to be functional at the highest level it can be and then let the producer and the marketplace decide what they want to see."