By Emily Stonehouse
The room was packed at the Bonnie View Inn on Oct. 27 for the Haliburton Highlands Arts Centre Foundation’s (HHACF) Annual General Meeting. While the crowd listened to the standard items on the agenda, there was a palpable energy awaiting the feasibility study results of the Arts Centre, presented by Janice Barlow and Rebecca Cann of Janice A. Barlow & Associates.
The purpose of this study was to answer some major questions that have been floating around in regards to the HHACF since its early stages. “In essence, it is an assessment of the practicality of this idea,” said Rebecca Cann, the primary presenter of the study. “You have this plan, this project, and it’s kind of fuzzy around the corners, and our job was really to dig down on the details.”
Based on the presentation, some gaps that the consulting group highlighted were, “Do we need it? Can we afford it? Where will it go? What will happen to the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavillion?”
The major question asked was, what resources are required to make this facility function, with financial and human resources identified as the primary needs? Much of the information garnered was collected from a series of surveys the consulting team dispersed. Through these surveys, there were 24 responses from groups or individuals who intend to use the space and 305 from the general public, with 37 individual interviews conducted with community members.
Through these surveys and interviews, the consulting team identified a series of concerns regarding the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavillion (NLPAP), which currently has a seating capacity of 226. These concerns included but were not limited to: inconsistent access, poor noise control and acoustics, small stage, no front of house services, and not enough seats.
It was through these observations that the consulting team made the recommendation to create a facility that would allow for up to 400 audience members, which would include a rehearsal space, classrooms, an audio recording space, and more. “The fact of the matter is, if you don’t have another performing arts centre, or another space where more seats can be sold and more can be done technically and artistically, then you are limiting growth of the performing arts community in Haliburton,” said Cann.
While no specific site for the building of this facility was shared with attendees during the meeting, it was noted that eight sites were reviewed, with two sites fulfilling the necessary criteria of desired acreage, adequate access to services, reachable via a major roadway, somewhere between Haliburton and Minden, and most importantly, free. In terms of the sites reviewed, Cann stated, “there were some sites that were suggested that were going to be donated, so that is a possibility.”
It was noted that while the facility is currently not in a design phase, the presentation was able to feature some preliminary architectural analysis for the public to view. These were ideas of what could fit in the spaces identified, and what is needed for the community.
Costs were a major focus from the study, with the operating budget addressed and broken into revenues and expenses. The main sources of revenue would be generated from ticket sales, rentals, and concessions, with contributed revenues from donations, sponsorships, and grants. Cann projected the total revenues for the centre to be $800,000. It was noted that these revenues are based on a 70 per cent audience capacity at 34 shows per year, as well as the assumption that the property taxes are waived.
Expenses noted were payroll, occupancy costs, and programming. These values also came in at $800,000, breaking even with the revenues. In the presentation, Cann stated, “no consistent source of operating funding is obvious at this time.”
Beyond the operating budget, Cann asked the audience to be mindful of “the rule of construction,” which allows a project to be two out of three values: fast, cheap, and/or right when it comes to capital cost. For the cost ratio, 50-69 per cent of the overall costs would be allocated to construction, with other components such as project management and pre-opening operations coming in at under ten per cent.
Through this presentation, the overall cost of the project was undetermined due to the fact that phase two of this feasibility undertaking is to bring in The Dennis Group, a consulting organization dedicated to analyzing the feasibility of fundraising for a specific project. Until that information becomes available, the overall costs of this project are unknown.
Cann suggested a model that would blend ownership and governance, “combining independent not-for-profit organization with municipal support.” It was noted that in order to access funding, municipal support and involvement is absolutely critical for the progression of this project.
The full recorded presentation from Oct. 27 and all relevant HHACF documents will be available on the HHACF website at www.artscentrefoundation.ca as well as their social media pages.