New Vision church needs $3.9M to transform auditorium into 1,000-seat live music venue
1868 heritage-designated landmark is located at 24 Main St. W. in Hamilton
Hamilton's New Vision United Church is plodding along with a project to transform its auditorium into a 1,000-seat live music venue.
The idea for the Music Hall at the 1868 heritage-designated landmark, located at 24 Main St. W., was born during Juno Fest in 2015 when the city's music scene was looking for concert venues.
Ian Sloan, New Vision co-ordinator of the Music Hall Initiatives, said they now need to raise $3.9 million to bring a much needed state-of-the-art venue to Hamilton's downtown.
He said the initial estimate of $1 million did not include major capital expenses such as air conditioning and improved ventilation of the auditorium, an electrical service upgrade and a production elevator.
"Those three things … contribute probably to half of that $3.9-million figure," Sloan told CBC Hamilton.
"The rest of it has to do with price increases [and] inflation. Construction costs have gone up a lot and as we refined the project it became clear that there were things that were very helpful to have … that would make it a really enjoyable venue."
The renovations designed and costed to date include the following:
- Structural reinforcement of the main floor.
- A large suite of gender-neutral washrooms to meet the occupancy load of the auditorium.
- Safety enhancements in the balcony area.
- Improved accessibility features.
- Sound and lighting support.
- Amenities for patrons, crews and performers.
- Significant improvements in ventilation that include air-conditioning.
Sloan said they have spent $450,000 so far, $250,000 of which was raised through grants. The rest came from New Vision United Church.
Sloan said their next step will be to talk with Hamilton's citizens and community leaders to develop a clear structure for operating and programming the venue.
"Those taking up the challenge will then push ahead with the renovations leading to the many event and performance opportunities that await," Sloan said.
"To raise the rest of the money, that's the next challenge, that's the gathering together and empowering a group that can … put the funds together to enable these improvements that then enable the hall to be scaled up to many, many, many events a year."
Artists support development of Music Hall
Jeff Martin, a former co-chair of Hamilton Music Strategy, said while Hamilton has big venues that can hold 3,000 or 20,000 people, the city needs a mid-sized venue like the Music Hall.
"One of the things that the music strategy identified is that we need a concert venue in Hamilton that can accommodate that 1,000 or 1,200," Martin told CBC Hamilton.
"So, this is a really important thing for Hamilton's music community and the city itself to have this really genuine venue that seats 1,000 people, and it's also an architectural gem and a historic building, so we're very lucky."
Artist Tom Wilson told CBC Hamilton, "The thought of watching art come to life in this old church is a step in the right direction for Hamilton and I wish only good things for its future."
Max Kerman, with Hamilton rock band Arkells, fully supports the development of the Music Hall.
"If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that live music and human connection are some of the key ingredients to living a rich and happy life," Kerman said.
"A beautiful space in the heart of downtown Hamilton for people to congregate and celebrate art and community is much needed. I'm excited that the Music Hall is getting some TLC."
Guitarist Steve Strongman said he first learned of the Music Hall while searching for a location for a video shoot.
He was immediately struck by the charm and feel of this unique space, and decided to film and record two live performances that turned out incredibly well.
"The Music Hall is unique in its acoustic properties, fantastic sight lines, and central location. I believe Hamilton also needs a room with a capacity of 1,000 to welcome artists that are both growing into that ticket selling fan base, and artists that can already sell this many tickets," Strongman said.
"The fact that this space is in an historic building further strengthens the importance in its community."
Geoff Kulawick, president of Waterdown-based Linus Entertainment, said the Music Hall project means Hamilton will have a high-quality venue for musical performances and other events.
"The Music Hall will be an invaluable addition to the region's cultural and community spaces, while preserving a building of major historic significance in Hamilton's downtown core," he said.
"I am eagerly anticipating concerts by some of my artists in the Music Hall in the near future."
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