Langley City and Langley Township have been attempting to bring a performing arts centre to the community for more than a decade, but after six years, neither have been able to get a facility off the ground.
Proposed in 2014, a 600 to 650 seat theatre was put forth in a joint effort by the City, Township, school district, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Trinity Western University – each entity contributed $10,000 to fund the $50,000 study.
Francis Cheung, chief administrative officer at Langley City, said the feasibility study showed that there was certainly a want from the public for that type of centre.
“There was a need, but not funding,” Cheung said.
While much discussion did ensue, nothing ultimately came from the study.
A space to replace the Summit Theatre at Cascades Convention Centre and Casino was next on the list to tackle, but the 600-seat staging area ultimately reached a standstill in 2018 and was replaced with an area to accommodate bingo games.
Langley City decided to go ahead with its own facility the following year.
Cheung called for the creation of a task group to develop a business plan and fundraising campaign for a 50,787-sq-ft. facility with a 500-seat theatre – estimated to cost $36 to $44 million.
That announcement was already one year ago, and Cheung has said there have been advancements, but called the process “a journey” that takes time.
“There is now a performing arts task group, looking for development partnerships to get something off the ground,” he explained. “We’re looking at higher governments to enable this and build partnerships through the arts community.”
Cheung said the City would be a partner, similar to the models of Langley Senior Resource Centre and Langley Community Music School.
“We’d offer up land and solicit funding through fundraisers or corporate sponsorships to help maintain costs,” Cheung explained, but was quick to point out one of the biggest hurdles their art centre is facing – sparsity of land in Langley City.
Langley Township has the advantage when it comes to space; a fact that was not lost on Pastor Dave McTaggart of Southgate Christian Fellowship.
Their congregation had proposed a facility that contained a performance area – available to the whole community – but were denied a development permit by the Agricultural Land Commission in the spring of 2019.
Peter Chevrier, communications manager at the Township, confirmed that there currently isn’t anything in the works.
“The Township of Langley has nothing outlined in our current five-year financial plan for a performing arts centre,” he noted. “However, a financial plan can be amended by council at any time in the future.”
Peter Luongo, founder of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble (LUE), has been urging the Langleys to build a proper performing arts centre for years.
Lately, he’s been vocal about the space Langley City has proposed, which he feels is too small.
“It continues to amaze me, that when we consider the size of our metro region, and the number of commodities, every other community around has an arts centre, but Langley hasn’t recognized the value of a performance space,” Luongo said.
The LUE founder was quick to point in every direction, saying that it doesn’t matter which direction a person goes, they’ll find another city with a proper facility.
“I love Langley, but I can’t reconcile that the community hasn’t come to terms that this is what makes a community great,” he said. “I’d never be a detractor for sports and athletic centres, but Langley is well equipped in that area. I can speak first-hand for performance spaces; you have to go elsewhere right now, whether it be a small school theatre, a church, or you go to another community.”
Cheung said Langley City’s performing arts centre is part of a downtown master plan – a civic precinct with the Timms Community Centre in an effort to make the area a vibrant hub.
“Ideally, it would be a stone’s throw away from the Skytrain,” Cheung said, noting that’s another entity not due to roll into town for at least another decade.
While those timelines may not be soon enough for Luongo’s preference, he said change ultimately sits within the voices of the people who want a space to finally go ahead.
“It’s worth the cost for the good it does bring out in the community and for our youth,” Luongo added.
The Chief Sepass Theatre at Langley Fine Arts School is currently the largest facility in the City or Township with a 300-seat venue.
For classical concerts, the Rose Gellert Hall at Langley Community Music School seats 250, but mainly hosts school related functions.
The multi-purpose Bez Arts Hub houses small-scale concerts and sketch comedy performances in an movable studio setting, while Trinity Western University additionally facilitates a theatre program out of Freedom Hall in the Robert N. Thompson Building.
Langley Players Drama Club runs out of the 50-year-old playhouse on 200th Street while Theatre in the Country performs at Langley Vineyard Church.
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