Long-awaited plans for a theatre at Stelly’s were finally revealed at a luncheon at the Brentwood Bay resort on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Two theatre options, one at 400 seats and the other at 650, were revealed with their expected costs: $22.5 and $24 million, respectively.
Architect Terence Williams considered acoustics, sightlines and a sense of intimacy from the start, but “in this case, Ron [Broda] and Jan Heinrichs and the committee said, ‘that’s not good enough.’ They said, ‘we want excellent acoustics, excellent sightlines and a supreme sense of intimacy.’”
Williams was the architect behind UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium and the Port Theatre in Nanaimo. He also converted the former Metropolitan United Church into the Victoria Conservatory of Music. The other architectural firm, HCMA, was responsible for the Dave Dunnet Theatre at Oak Bay High, which itself was partly inspired by the Port Theatre that Williams designed,.
Broda gave Williams a list of features that they wanted after touring some Island facilities. Broda said the original design concept was more similar to Oak Bay’s theatre, which is 433 seats, but Broda felt that “it really wasn’t the answer,” so with some money left over, he made “an executive decision” asked the consultants to give advice on the effect of a larger option, which is unusual for theatres of a similar size. The consultant, Hamilton McClymont, recommended the smaller option due to the extra cost and acoustic challenges of the larger option. However, Broda noted that “there is a real gap in the market.” and was excited that for only 10 per cent more capital, the theatre would have 62.5 per cent more capacity.
“There is not another theatre other than the Royal or the Mac [McPherson Theatre] that are in that range. Everything else is 400 or less. So I think that the 650 is a home run,” said Broda.
The design is at the conceptual stage, and the exterior design of the building has not been finalized. Current drawings show the building with a green exterior to match the existing green of Stelly’s Secondary, but Broda was envisioning something “more West Coast-ish, with more natural wood, and hopefully incorporating some of the four First Nations in our neighbourhood.”
Broda’s three daughters all went to Stelly’s and he’s been involved as a parent volunteer for over 20 years at the parent advisory council level, and is passionate about arts education, which he said is “not just an extra, but essential.”
There is still much work to do before the theatre is actually built. McClymont recommended a non-profit society be formed to manage the theatre in co-operation with the district of Central Saanich. Broda said he’s been “bending the ear of every politician I can talk to,” with more meetings ahead, but he is looking for one key financial partner which he calls an “angel donor,” to make the theatre possible.