There is a lot of misinformation floating through Whistler on who should be responsible for the soon-to-be-closed Teddy Bear Daycare. That point was driven home during Monday night’s council meeting, which saw Teddy Bear Daycare advocate Jennifer Abbott present council with a petition of 716 signatures to keep the amenity open.
At the crux of the issue is the future of MY Millennium Place, which will become property of the Resort Municipality of Whistler in the near future.
“We are in a transition zone,” explained Councillor Tim Wake, who sits on the Millennium Place Society’s board.
“There is a hand off happening here, so it isn’t necessarily Millennium Place Society that is going to make the decision about whether the daycare stays or not. It isn’t necessarily the municipality.
“The notion in the petition last night that basically council could just force the Millennium Place Society to do it, I don’t think that is the appropriate action here.”
Wake added that because Millennium Place is an arts and culture facility, Whistler’s arts and culture community is effectively subsidizing daycare.
“We need to find a different model, either by finding a different location or another operator to come into that space and make the business model work, because cultural facilities are not designed to run daycares,” said Wake.
“Even though the daycare was planned in that space from the get-go, it is another thing to operate.”
The Millennium Place Society has run into several hurdles financially and logistically while owning the building and operating the daycare over the last five years.
According to general manager Dennis Marriot, the decision to cease operation of the daycare came after the society’s board of directors last fall confirmed Millennium Place’s strategic direction is to focus on culture and arts.
One key component of this decision was that the daycare was running at a net loss, requiring huge subsidies from the society to continue operations. Also, the society’s “charitable status” prevented the possibility of having an independent operator come in to run the facility.
“We are not closing the daycare specifically because of financial reasons,” said Marriot.
“The timing of it is because of financial reasons… which means we have to look at our overall operation, focus on our vision and mission, and feel where the biggest impact can be. It is not that the kids are not important… It comes down to our mission and this is how much money we have to put towards it.”
Marriot, added that he does not know the specific date when Millennium Place will transfer to the municipality, but he understands the process could happen soon.
With the change in ownership, it is not clear what role the society will play in the future of Millennium Place. However, the society is hoping to have a lease agreement with the municipality to continue operating the theatre and programming after the building ownership is transferred.
Sue Adams, chair of the society’s board, said the board is recommending Millennium Place become the arts and culture headquarters for Whistler.
“As far as our society is concerned, we would like to be an active participant in that, but we are just one of a number of players in the arts, culture and heritage sector in Whistler,” she said.