CANMORE – Stan Rogers Memorial Stage will be getting more work done than originally expected.
An extra $100,000 was approved by Canmore council to help extend the life of the stage and address structural concerns, though $50,000 of it will come from the Canmore Folk Music Festival, which built the stage in 1983.
With the Canmore Folk Music Festival helping financially, it eases the burden on local taxpayers while also seeing necessary improvements to the stage.
“The stage is a crucial part of our festival, the arts community and Canmore’s historical past. Over the years, we have built up an emergency “rainy day” fund for the event of significant issues like this,” wrote Ken Pillipow, the general manager of the music festival, in a letter to council for its Dec. 7 meeting.
Pillipow’s letter highlighted the role the stage has had for the local arts community for almost four decades and the likelihood of it continuing to do so into the future.
Stephen Hanus, the Town of Canmore's manager of facilities, said staff reached out and consulted with different user groups of the stage to gauge preference for repairs. It led to the Canmore Folk Music Festival coming forward with $50,000 to help with the costs.
In exchange, the Town would enter a formal agreement with the festival to hold a long weekend for the annual festival and to allow the group to keep using storage space without rent in the building.
“We know there are some challenges with the existing structure related to the sightlines for the audience. It needs some electrical upgrades and repairing means we’re pushing that bigger redevelopment project out further to the future,” said Whitney Smithers, the Town’s general manager of infrastructure.
“It’s why we engaged the stakeholders to acknowledge there’s tradeoffs. We can fix what’s there now, but it means other issues like raising the stage and the electrical upgrading we won’t get to until further out into the future.”
The stage has a floor area of about 1,400-square-feet and hosts the annual Canmore Folk Music Festival as well as the Canada Day celebrations, the Pine Tree Players, the Canmore Highland Games and several other events during the year.
The decision, however, could mean raising the stage to improve sightlines could be pushed further out than the already forecasted 2030 project date.
“I’m sad that this isn’t an opportunity to do better,” said Coun. Tanya Foubert.
“I think had we known what we know now three years ago, we could’ve done more in the last two years around the stage. … I think changing course to come up with a new plan for the stage would be chaos for 2022. I think fixing the stage is the right way to go.”
Council was presented with three options to complete the repairs and extend the life of the stage, which would push the 2030 capital project out further.
The stage also could have been removed and a temporary one used until a new higher one was finished, or the building could be demolished and temporary ones used to stage events.
Hanus said it would cost several hundred thousand dollars to raise the stage, adding the estimated cost to raise the stage and build a new one would be more than $1 million.
“It’s not inexpensive work,” he said.
Though more of a Band-Aid fix, the repairs will extend the life of the building for another 30 years.
The extra money was needed after more extensive repairs were discovered when the flooring replacement project was underway.
When that project was being done, Hanus said workers found the eight structural posts had deteriorated. It led council to approve an additional $25,000 in June for the posts to be fixed, bringing the project cost to $75,000.
When the posts were being repaired, structural issues were discovered since the modifications to the stage had put extra stress on the load and non-load bearing walls, causing the building to lean.
“It’s unfortunate we can’t do more, but it’s important the repairs happen. You start digging into it and you find more and more,” Coun. Jeff Hilstad said, noting it is a “beloved stage in the community.”