A film production studio proposal for Nelson’s Civic Centre is moving forward at the municipal government level but on the community level it has not been vetted by the facility’s user groups.

When Nelson City council approved a request to enter into negotiations with Community Futures Central Kootenay (CFCK) Tuesday night on a cost-sharing agreement to lease space in the Civic Centre arena  — or curling club and “associated facilities” — in non-recreational periods, the motion raised alarm bells with one councillor.

Kate Tait said she was aware the proposal was for non-recreational times, but wondered if there had been any engagement or communication on how the proposal would affect the most frequent user groups at the Civic, including the gentlemen’s hockey league, women’s hockey and the Nelson Minor Hockey Association.

“It would be great to engage with them, just to make sure the conversation is open,” she pointed out. “Just to make sure we are engaging with them.”

City manager Kevin Cormack admitted the City had not directly engaged with any of the recreation groups that have been utilizing the facility for decades on the proposal for the film production studio.

“We have not done that at this stage,” he said. “We certainly made the (Recreation 5) commission know that we are into this and that we are looking at these facilities in terms of the structural challenges in those facilities.”

He said consultation with those groups could be part of the $80,000 Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program (REDIP) grant funding the City has recently been awarded.

“But I will make sure that happens,” he said.

“I think conversations with the community really help boost momentum and positive change,” said Tait replied.

The proposal from CFCK includes making the Nelson Civic Arena and Nelson Curling Rink available for bookings for film production use, when not booked by recreational user groups, on an as-is basis during the current off-season, “as opportunities for their use by film producers may materialize in the coming months,” noted CFCK executive director, Andrea Wilkey.

The scope of use for both the arena and curling rink (and associated facilities) would be expanded to include film studio and film production office use of those facilities in the hockey and curling off-seasons. 

“Once the scope of use is officially expanded, planning can take place for leasehold improvements to make the space suitable for ongoing film production and prepare for a follow-up REDIP grant pertaining to capital cost improvements,” she said. 

However, the one hurdle in the way is the city is still doing engineered studies on the buildings in question. Last year it was revealed that escalating costs and scope were affecting progress on the Civic Centre project, causing the City to head back to the drawing board for solutions to the revitalization project for the 90-year-old facility.

Cormack pointed to the structure’s aging roof and the snow load it will undergo once it is insulated, putting additional pressure on it and raising concerns on how it will perform.

“So it is back with the consultants looking at every out-of-the-box solution of how can we deal with it, specifically, that roof and just cost escalation,” he said. “So that’s a really, really challenging project and we are working hard with people to find solutions to a very challenging building.”

He estimated there was up to 50 per cent construction cost escalation since 2021. 

Cormack said there was to be some design work as part of the REDIP grant for how a production studio could be configured into the space in the future.

“I’m not anticipating anything happening there this year; it’s likely into the future when we get a bit more understanding of those facilities and the potential there,” he said. “It’s likely not available for this year.”

The City received an $80,000 grant through the Province’s Rural Economic Diversification and Infrastructure Program (REDIP) to develop plans for the Kootenay Regional Film Studios and support the local film industry. CFCK — with regard to the Kootenay Regional Film Commission led by John Wittmayer — has been working to transform the Kootenays into a film production hub within British Columbia.

Funds will cover architect and engineer professional fees, systems design planning, exterior design (parking and access), construction and procurement estimates, operational (governance) planning and project management. 

Timeline

The project proposal still has some distance to travel before the curtain opens:

– present through September 2024: complete studio planning phase; 

– September/October 2024: prepare and submit REDIP application for capital costs;

– March 2025: learn whether REDIP application was successful; 

– Summer 2025: if funding is available, complete improvements to arena/curling rink; and 

– Fall 2025: improvement work complete with studio available for seasonal use. 

Source: Kootenay Regional Film Commission

By Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 03, 2024 at 13:55

This item reprinted with permission from   The Nelson Daily   Nelson, British Columbia
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