Seating upgrades to a venerable Kirkland Lake public venue should be complete by summer’s end.
By the end of August, 504 new seats will installed in Northern College’s auditorium and college administration are already formulating plans for a bigger facelift.
The 45-year-old balconied amphitheatre has always been a popular gathering place for conferences, festivals and headline acts like Colin James, the Trews, Chantal Kreviazuk, Tom Cochrane, Colin James and Steven Page.
So in May of last year, when the call went out to the community to chip in and help replace the hundreds of tired and worn auditorium seats, it was no surprise that there was such strong support for the Buy-a-Seat campaign among many local organizations, businesses and citizens to sponsor a new seat for $250.
Last December, fundraising organizers were three-quarters of the way to their target when Les Cassidy, a former Kirkland Lake resident living in the Toronto area, stepped forward with a $100,000 donation to pay for the balance of the seating with some money left over to consider other upgrades.
“That put us over the top with the seating initiative and will give us the ability to look at other areas of improvement,” said campus manager Allan French.
The replacement seats were ordered from SDR Seating in Ancaster. The old seats are being donated to a local not-for-profit group trying to revive a 75-year-old downtown theatre.
Some of the donators have included Northern College, Kirkland Lake Power Corporation, St. Andrew Goldfields and mining suppliers Heath & Sherwood 64.
Many of them have submitted letters of support to help leverage more money from government funding agencies to replace the auditorium’s original curtains, audio and lighting systems, and possibly address the ventilation and roof condition.
These bigger enhancements are estimated to cost close to $750,000.
“We’re certainly aiming for the sky,” said French, “and depending on how successful we are we’ll either go ahead with the plans as is or we’ll set some priorities for a future date.”
The college has always maintained an open-door policy when comes to staging more than 20 events a year on average.
The venue played host to an international welding show in 2012, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities in 2007, and Association française des municipalités de l'Ontario (AFMO) in 2005.
The Kirkland Lake Festival Committee is a major user of the auditorium and it’s also booked for local arts council events, pageants, dance recitals, and the school of the arts and children’s programming.
French said community groups, working with the college’s facilities coordinator, have been a huge part of marketing the auditorium to ensure it’s used as frequently as possible.
“We are a community college and we should be assisting and promoting our facility so local people can come in and use the facility to suis their needs.”