The school district, city, Key City Theatre Society, regional district and federal MP David Wilks have met to talk about replacing Mount Baker Secondary School and the Key City Theatre.
Last month, the five groups came together to discuss partnering opportunities on the combined project.
The Feb. 21 meeting was attended by MP David Wilks, Regional District of East Kootenay board chair Rob Gay, Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski, members of the School District 5 board of trustees, and members of the Key City Theatre Society.
A replacement for the 60-year-old Mount Baker Secondary School has been on Cranbrook’s wish list since 2008. In December 2012, the school district, the city and the Key City Theatre Society signed a partnership agreement stating that a theatre would be included in the new high school, just as it is now.
The B.C. government has not yet committed funding to replace the high school.
Last month, those three partners reached out to the federal government and the regional district to discuss funding opportunities for the theatre portion of the project.
According to SD5 Trustee, Chris Johns, while the provincial government is already on board in setting aside space within a new school to accommodate community uses, they would not be able to fund the total expense of a new theatre.
“That’s where we need to bring together other community partners to help build the project,” explained Johns. “Having the federal government and regional district involved is the next logical step and is fundamental to the success of the project.”
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said that the replacement of Mount Baker is still high on his agenda.
“I’m still very much supportive of the project of replacing the school. In fact, I’m bringing the Minister of Education to the riding in the near future and I will take him through the school, as I have previous ministers,” he told the Townsman.
But, he pointed out, the province’s first and second priorities for school capital projects are those requiring seismic upgrades, and areas where the school population is growing so rapidly that there are not enough classrooms.
“Number three is school replacements where the schools have become old,” Bennett said.
“I know that Mount Baker, in that third category, is very high on the list. I will continue to try to move it up the list as best I can.”
He supports including the Key City Theatre into the school replacement, however the province won’t be able to shoulder the cost of the theatre aspect.
“While I would try to get some extra dollars for the theatre, they are going to be scarce, and we are all going to need to help raise the money that it will take to replace the theatre.”
Key City Theatre Society chair Sandra Cave said that is why the group wanted to meet with federal and regional politicans, especially since many of the theatre’s patrons are not from Cranbrook.
“Over one-third of patrons are from somewhere else in the region, which is why we wanted to meet with MP David Wilks and RDEK Chair Rob Gay,” she said.
Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski said the project would inject $50 to $60 million into the local economy. The project would also improve the social and cultural sustainability of the entire region.
“This is the largest high school—and only full-size theatre—in the East Kootenay,” said Mayor Stetski.
“This project will offer a first class educational and cultural institution not only for area residents but could also attract those who may consider relocating or retiring to the East Kootenay.”
Johns, Cave and Stetski agree the meeting went extremely well, with all parties clearly understanding the value of this initiative.
“Rob Gay has invited us to present to the RDEK in April and to request support in securing federal grants with them, and while David Wilks can’t guarantee federal funding, he’s clearly stated his support for our partnership,” explained Johns. “David has already provided valuable information on new federal grants to which our partners may be eligible toward a new theatre build.”
Johns, Cave and Stetski are looking forward to a working relationship with the RDEK to identify granting opportunities.