Belfry Theatre, Panorama arena get grants for major upgrades

The Panorama Rec Centre in North Saanich will use the $500,000 it received Thursday from the federal government to help replace its refrigerated arena floor that is so old it’s in danger of failure.

The money was part of more than $1.5 million in region-wide grants Ottawa announced as a legacy for the nation’s 150th birthday, including $340,000 for new seats and other improvements at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria.

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The arena grant comes on top of the $100,000 the North Saanich rec centre won in the Kraft Hockeyville contest this year.

“We needed to get that grant because we’ve spent $1.5 million on the ice-making equipment this year,” said Wayne Ruffle, chairman of the Peninsula Recreation Commission.

Panorama’s arena floor, installed 38 years ago, was earmarked for $1.3 million in renovations in the Capital Regional District’s 2018 capital budget, making it easier for staff to put together the detailed grant proposal in time to apply for the federal grant, said Lorraine Brewster, the centre’s acting senior manager. The proposal was made within a three-week timeline to the 150 Community Infrastructure Program, which will provide $150 million over two years to honour the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

The floor’s refrigeration system that makes the arena’s ice is “at risk of failure,” Brewster said.

Thousands of recreational hockey players use the facility each year, and it hosts a variety of events, Ruffle said. The typical life span of such floors and equipment is 30 years.

The $340,000 for the Belfry was the next biggest of the package of local grants announced by Michelle Rempel, minister of state for Western Economic Diversification.

Belfry will use the money to expand lobby space and to buy 250 theatre seats, replacing ones that were refurbished 20 years ago

“We’re not really sure how old they are. But they’re old,” said Ivan Habel, the theatre’s executive director.

The seats will be replaced next summer. This will be followed by installation of a glass roof over an outdoor courtyard, allowing the Belfry to expand its covered lobby space.

There will also be improvements to a wheelchair ramp and an awning over the wheelchair entrance.

Habel said the renovations are part of a plan to do major expansion of the Belfry in the future. The company aims to increase the size of its building by 20 to 25 per cent.

The expansion — to include additional lobby space and more rehearsal space — would allow the Belfry to use its studio theatre to stage plays on a more regular basis. Currently, the studio theatre is used for both rehearsals and shows.

Habel said the expansion is a long-range plan requiring a major capital campaign. The project has no price tag or timeline.

Other grants in the Thursday’s announcement include $73,000 for the Scouts Canada Cascadia Council to renovate Keego kitchen and dining hall in Sooke and $50,000 for the Victoria Highland Games Association to rehabilitate Craigflower Manor in View Royal.

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