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Princess Sheila NaGeira Theatre to get long-awaited extension

The Town of Carbonear is finally seeing some progress on a 15-year ambition.

Over that period, ideas have been tossed back and forth in council chambers for an expansion to the Princess Sheila NaGeira Theatre, located in the same building as the town hall.

Although the idea had be discussed by various councils over the years, it never came to fruition for a number of reasons relevant to each particular time

Mayor Frank Butt said it was about two years ago when the members of the current council sat together and decided they had grown tired of the extension coming up, fizzling out, and coming up again throughout the years.

“We needed to get together, with everyone at the same table, and make it happen,” Butt said, adding that by getting everyone, including the six to seven stakeholders, in the same room they could all get on the same page quickly, and avoid any further confusion or miscommunication such as happend in years gone by. “We explained that this is what we wanted, that’s what we needed, and by the end of the day when they left, we were all on the same level.”

Butt said council provided a deadline of when it wanted the initial aspects of the work figured out, and within a month and a half, they had made significant progress toward that end.

Now, the project is much closer to becoming a reality, and although the tenders came in a little higher than expected, Butt said he is glad to see some progress after years of delay.

Initially, the town’s contribution towards completing the expansion was expected to be 10 per cent of the overall cost. However, as was noted by Deputy Mayor Chris O’Grady during last week’s meeting, the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is asking the Town to increase its share of the funds, because of the amount of money expended by governments on every level in the last couple months in an effort to deal with the impacts of the ongoing pandemic.

“We sat down and discussed it,” said Mayor Butt. “We knew we needed it, and we were this far into it. We wanted to do whatever it takes to make it work, and we came up with a figure of (an additional) five per cent.”

This brings the Town’s contribution to the project to 15 per cent of the total costs. “I feel that that’s fitting, because it’s been a decade and a half gone into this now, and it’s got to be put to bed,” Butt added.

By getting the extension done, Butt said, it will not only be good for the town, but the entire region, giving people from the many communities in and around Conception Bay north an even larger, dedicated theatre within driving distance.

The extension will see a number of improvements to the behind-the-scenes portion of the theatre, and although the seating capacity will remain at around 375, Butt said the extension will create quality of life improvements for those involved in the many different shows that take place there.

The extra space will accommodate new changing rooms, and an eating area or kitchenette.

“There’ll be accessible entrances for whoever is performing there, that way they can go in and out whenever they need to from that entrance,” Butt added.

As for a time frame for construction, Butt said with the pandemic affecting so many things in the province, an exact date is difficult to estimate. Were it not for that, he said, the work might even have ben completed by now. Butt initially hoped the project would start in December, but due to some issues regarding the design, and funding, the work was postponed to the spring of 2020. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has occurred.

“I’m going to venture to say that by the fall of 2020 construction should be able to start – that all depends on the government of course, and when they ease up restrictions enough,” Butt said. If work does proceed in the fall, he reckoned it can be completed by the spring of next year,

“I’m optimistic,” said the mayor. “Construction is construction and there are always going to be little hiccups, but we’re anxious to get this going because this situation that we’re in right now will end, and we need to make sure that we’re ready, as a town, to jump right into it and start promoting our town and region when it’s safe to do so.”

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