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cultural facility

"Whistler should immediately proceed with plans toward the ultimate goal of establishing multi-purpose cultural facilities to support quality of life, economic diversification and resort ‘completion’." That is the conclusion of the Whistler Cultural Facilities Study, presented by former Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts president Anne Popma to council Monday. Popma stressed that the report was not meant to be a final authority, but rather a "living, useful document" that will provide the basis for further discussion and action toward a cultural facility. She said there are steps that can and should be taken by the municipality now — which don’t require funding — to prepare for the building of a cultural facility. The study was undertaken by the Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts, with funding from the municipality and the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The report reflects the opinions of the board of directors of the Whistler Centre and was presented the same day the headline at the top of the Vancouver Sun’s front page read: "Greater Vancouver shortchanged in arts and culture, study finds." The report finds three potential sites for a cultural facility: the five-acre parcel on the Blackcomb Benchlands which was zoned for a cultural facility in the late 1970s, the conference centre and Lot 1 in Village North. The report doesn’t favour any one site, but suggests that because of the shortage of potential sites it’s important there be no delay in choosing one. The municipality has planned an arena/recreational facility on Lot 1, although there may be space for some cultural facilities, such as a public art gallery. Some of the smaller hotels in the village favour keeping the conference centre a convention facility, rather than converting it to a cultural facility, because it brings them convention business. The cultural facility itself should include a 600-seat theatre. Consultants have suggested such a facility could cost anywhere from $10 million to $20 million, Popma said. They also recommended the facility be municipally owned and run by an independent society. Popma said the municipality shouldn’t think about building a cultural facility for tourists alone, but at the same time Whistler shouldn’t expect tourists to come for cultural experiences with what the town has now. However, she went on to say that in-flight surveys suggest there are already 100,000 potential theatre-goers visiting Whistler annually. She suggested there are a number of people who have "a vested interest" in Whistler who may be a valuable tool in building a cultural facility. "Whistler has the potential (for corporate sponsorship of a cultural facility) if we have a policy in place and a process for fund-raising," Popma said. Asked if she had ever received any corporate offers to sponsor a culture facility in Whistler, Popma replied she had. "The role for council to play is in focusing the community on arts and cultural needs," she added. Popma suggested council take the report to a committee of local arts advisors, look at the options and return in six months with a plan to build a cultural facility.

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