Ottawa

Bronson Centre hoping Toronto venue deal will double number of concerts

Ottawa's Bronson Centre is partnering with a Toronto music venue as part of a plan to significantly increase the number of concerts it holds — while pledging to continue serving the local organizations that call it home.

Non-profit centre vows to host 100 shows a year while preserving community space

The Bronson Centre hopes a new arrangement with a Toronto music venue will let them host significantly more concerts, while also defraying some of the costs facing the 40 charities and non-profits that rent space in the former high school. ( Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Ottawa's Bronson Centre is partnering with a Toronto music venue as part of a plan to significantly increase the number of concerts it holds — while pledging to continue serving the local organizations that call it home.

The non-profit music hall and community space has entered into an agreement with Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre to double the number of artists who play the 850-seat Centretown venue each year.

"I was thinking about how it's important to get support from all sectors of our industry — private, public and philanthropic — in order for us to stay alive, to thrive," said Bronson Centre executive director Corey Mayville.

"When The Phoenix came along and were interested in our theatre, I thought, 'Wow, this is a really cool thing!'"

Ottawa 'a great market'

The deal, Mayville told CBC Radio's All In A Day on Wednesday, will allow the Bronson Centre to help allay some of the costs facing the 40 charities and non-profits that rent space in the former high school.

Both Mayville and Lisa Zbitnew, co-owner of the Phoenix Concert Theatre, said they don't plan to squeeze out those organizations under the new arrangement.

There's a lot of young people through the universities and the tech sector that I think are really starved for more entertainment.- Lisa Zbitnew , Phoenix Concert Theatre

"It's by no means meant to be strictly a commercial endeavour. We have a real commitment to the social enterprise that the Bronson Centre has done such an amazing job at creating," Zbitnew said.

"We're looking at 100 shows [in the] first year. That leaves another 265 [days] available on the calendar."

The Bronson Centre has hosted well known artists including Neko Case, Sigur Rós and even Lady Gaga.

The hope is that artists playing the Phoenix will also make a stop in Ottawa, which often gets bypassed on national tours, she added.

"It is a great music market," said Zbitnew, who grew up in Blackburn Hamlet. "There's a lot of young people through the universities and the tech sector that I think are really starved for more entertainment."

Lisa Zbitnew, co-owner of the Phoenix Concert Theatre, says the new arrangement with the Bronson Centre means more musicians will play both Toronto and Ottawa on national tours. (Paul Smith/CBC News)

The agreement has already borne fruit, Zbitnew said: some 30 dates from October to December 2019 are already booked up.

Showgoers would also notice physical changes to the space, Zbitnew said, including better lighting, a new PA system, and removable seats. 

Under the new deal, the Bronson Centre will continue hosting shows put on by Ottawa music promoter Spectrasonic, they said.

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