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City of New Westminster and Massey Theatre seal the deal on theatre operations

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Massey Theatre 2
The City of New Westminster and the Massey Theatre Society have mapped out a plan for the society to operate the theatre complex.

The city and the Massey Theatre Society are sealing the deal on their commitment to working together to advance the arts in New Westminster.

On Oct. 4, New Westminster city council approved in principle a lease and working agreement for the operation of the Massey Theatre and complex. Once the ownership of the land officially transfers from the school district to the city, the city will execute the lease and working agreement with the society.

On behalf of the city, the society will use the Massey Theatre and the adjacent classrooms, band rooms and small gymnasium for arts, cultural and community uses.

“This has been a really long process for many people; some people way longer than me,” said Coun. Mary Trentadue, a member of the Massey Theatre working group. “We are not completely finished yet, but we are getting extremely close now. I really just want to thank all of the staff at the city who have worked tirelessly to bring this forward in a way I think we can really feel proud of. I would like to acknowledge the Massey Theatre working group.”

Trentadue said the working group hashed out an agreement that she considers “groundbreaking” in terms of partnerships for the city. She said the goal was to create a partnership that would benefit local citizens.

“I really, really look forward to the day when it’s all done and the documents are all signed and we can really experience what this partnership and building is going to do for our community,” she said.

A staff report stated a 25-year lease term has been established in order to provide operational stability, to demonstrate shared commitment to the long-term vision for the theatre and complex, and to allow the Massey Theatre Society to leverage contributions from other levels of government so it can continue to invest in specialized infrastructure and equipment for the betterment of the facility.

Lynn Radbourne, chair of the Massey Theatre board of directors, said she’s pleased the city and the society were able to come to an agreement after all the hard work that’s been done by the society to run the theatre.

“We look forward to it for many, many years to come,” she said. “The old girl is not ready to close up yet, so enjoy.”

Radbourne noted that Massey Theatre didn’t completely shut down during the pandemic. With restrictions having relaxed a bit, she said Massey Theatre is having an open house on Saturday, Nov. 13 from 1 to 5 p.m.

“Everybody is welcome; all ages –  from little kids to seniors,” she said. “We are going to show you what we have been doing with the decorating, and different things that we have been doing while most of the general public haven’t been able to come.”

A report to council stated that costs associated with the building envelop and maintenance will be assumed by the city when ownership transfers from the school district.

“To date, staff have estimated, and council has approved, an annual operating budget of $500,000 to support the ongoing maintenance of the facility,” said the report. “Future budget needs beyond the $400,000 will need to be managed within existing budgets or brought to council for consideration as part of the annual budget process.”

Mayor Jonathan Cote said the recent announcement that the city is poised to take over ownership of the Massey Theatre is not new news to the community, as it’s been in the works for years, but it’s still nice to get to that point.

“Certainly, I am incredibly excited about the opportunities we are going to have as a community to work with that theatre in the future,” he said.

Cote said there is still lots of work to do to make sure Massey Theatre is as successful as possible.

“We recognize our partnership with the Massey Theatre Society is a huge component of that,” he said. “Tonight we are looking at forging that partnership.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus