Saanich to play bigger role as CRD set to take over McPherson Theatre

The City of Victoria unanimously agreed to conditionally transfer ownership of the McPherson Theatre to the Capital Regional District

The McPherson Theatre will soon have a new owner.

The City of Victoria unanimously agreed to conditionally transfer ownership of the McPherson Theatre to the Capital Regional District, in an effort to increase the theatre’s funding sources.

Saanich Coun. Colin Plant chairs the CRD arts committee and only learned the news as he was away for spring break on a theatre trip to London, England with his Claremont theatre students.

“The challenge will be in getting other municipalities to join the service (funding McPherson), as currently nobody but Victoria does,” Plant said.

Right now the CRD arts committee is undertaking a regional arts study and one of the components is looking at facilities, he added.

“I feel we must start thinking about what we want in the future. If we want a different model (new theatre) then we will discover it during this process,” Plant said.

Victoria has owned the McPherson Playhouse since it was donated by the McPherson family in 1963 and is managed by the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society, the board of which consists of representatives from Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich city councils.

However, Victoria is the only municipality to provide funding to the theatre.

Last year, the city kicked in $750,000 of taxpayers’ dollars, despite the fact that Saanich residents provided the highest amount of ticket sales, followed by Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Langford and View Royal.

The transfer is subject to the facility returning to the city for a nominal fee, if the city remains the sole funder of the service in the long term, and subject to the financial participation of other municipal partners based on current CRD municipal funding formulas.

“It’s a clear indicator that this is a regional service and it needs to be supported regionally. I hope this step will bring our partners to the table to meaningfully and financially support the McPherson Theatre,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

Mayor Lisa Helps added the transfer of the property is critically important in encouraging other municipalities to contribute as well.

“The CRD should go to each municipality and target those councils to make a strong case (for funding). Capital monies will be going towards an assets that is regionally owned, not a facility that’s owned by the City of Victoria,” she said.

City of Victoria staff will work with members of the theatres society to appeal to Oak Bay and Saanich councils to consider kicking in funding.

The playhouse serves roughly 25,000 people and is expected to host 50 productions this year.

– With files from Travis Paterson