Port Theatre revises expansion plan

NANAIMO – The loss of potential sponsor leads to new project timelines.

Failed talks with a potential naming sponsor has tossed a wrench into the Port Theatre expansion.

The Port Theatre Society has announced the need for new timelines after discussions with a key naming sponsor fell through.

As recently as April, theatre general manager Bruce Halliday reported a positive meeting with an unnamed sponsor for the new $12.6-million centre and was confident money could be raised within timelines.

Civic politicians have promised $4.6 million to the project if the Port Theatre Society raises the other $8 million. Half the fundraising dollars are expected to come from naming rights, with primary sponsorship forming the foundation of the plan.

Not getting this naming sponsor on board was a surprise and “pretty big wrench,” according to Fred Jacklin, president of the Port Theatre Society, who says it’s nothing that can’t be overcome, but will mean a revisited and revised plan.

The centre doors were expected to open in 2017. It’s not yet known what new timelines will be for the project or how the society will revise its plan, but it will withdraw a $2.5-million grant application and will work with a consortium of community partners.

“What we hit is a bump in the road, not a brick wall,” said Jacklin, who stresses his board is still committed to the project.

He said designs are mostly complete for the building, once billed as a 19,000-square-foot centre that would cater to international touring professionals and community groups.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said he thought the society’s timeline had been optimistic and was glad the group gave council an update, even if it was bad news, while Coun. Diane Brennan expressed confidence in the society and Port Theatre.

“I am disappointed, but my confidence I think is stronger knowing that given this bump that you have done the responsible thing and come back to council and told us,” she said.

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