Open letter to the Town of Carlyle from the Chairman of the Carlyle Memorial Hall Board

This letter is in response to Mr. Martin Tourand's letter published in the Carlyle Observer on Friday December 13 related to the proposal that suggested that Carlyle needs a new town hall. I am afraid I must disagree with a number of statements made by Mr. Tourand in his letter. He stated "no one was looking to upgrade anything". This is not true about the Carlyle Memorial hall. In the last 10 years or so the Carlyle Memorial Hall board and Cornerstone Theatre Inc. has renovated the concession and admission area of the theatre, replaced the antique furnace with modern high efficiency furnaces, upgraded the washrooms in the hall to modern standards, installed an elevator and modified the theatre to allow access to those with limited mobility, installed new seating in the theatre, removed the Carbon-arc projectors and installed much more modern projectors, renovated and upgraded the rental area that Envision Counseling is now occupying, raised the back door of the hall, and renovated a rental space on the second floor which is utilized as a lounge during theatrical productions. This work was done with generous donations from the residents, business people and service groups in Carlyle and with untold hours of volunteer labour from skilled tradesmen and others. In addition, the month of January 2014 has been scheduled as the month to demolish and reinstall a new floor in the main hall, renovate the bar in the hall, and, if manpower and time allow, totally renovate the entry. The funding is virtually all in place for this project, and it will proceed. The next project scheduled will be to renovate the kitchen in the hall.

Mr. Tourand also states "our older infrastructure just isn't cutting it any more." This also is a statement with which I disagree when he refers to the Carlyle Memorial Hall. I am sure that those who attended the Dickens Village Festival during the weekend of December 7, and 8 found that the hall, and "Fezziwig's Pub" were beautifully decorated. I want to commend Che Cormier, Sheila Menard and their volunteer team for that work. If you also attended Cornerstone Theatre's production of "Christmas at the Bar Humbug Ranch", you were treated to clear acoustics and unencumbered sightlines. There are truly no bad seats in the house. Those of us involved in both the performing and technical side of Cornerstone Theatre also appreciate the dressing rooms that were renovated 25 or so years ago, various stage expansions, the technical booth which was installed 10 to 15 years ago, and all the technical infrastructure in lights and sound equipment that has been purchased and installed since the formation of Cornerstone Theatre approximately 28 years ago.

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As the Chairman of the Carlyle Memorial Hall Board, and a founding member of Cornerstone Theatre I will admit my bias on this matter. However, it should be noted that The Carlyle Memorial Hall has a fairly large proscenium stage, two dressing rooms, with washrooms, and all the necessary infrastructure to present what we feel to be entertaining and professional appearing productions. The facilities available in this hall are virtually unparalleled in this area.

Mr Tourand also states "there are so many things that we could do with a new hall." Our current hall has rental spaces available for small and medium size events. Can we meet the demand for a single event with an attendance above 300 people? The answer has to be no. However there is a facility not 15 kms away in Acrola that can probably seat 1000. I don't really know how many it will seat, but I have attended a number of functions there, and it is large. Does Carlyle need to compete with Arcola for those types of events? I don't believe so, but I leave that for the people of Carlyle to decide. Before that decision is made I would like Carlyle to consider the utility of our facility for small and medium events including weddings, parties, meetings, theatrical productions and musical performances. Are there other rooms within Carlyle that can comfortably accommodate small events of up to 200 people and give them a warm and inviting environment? There are none of which I am aware.

Is the Memorial Hall perfect? Absolutely not! We have a number of upgrades in mind that will continue to improve the utility of the hall for small to medium events, and, we believe, benefit the town of Carlyle. Should it be abandoned for a new facility that will probably be in a less advantageous location, require an expenditure in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to design and construct and require many months to complete? We believe that would be an error that would tax the fund raising capabilities of the population and businesses in Carlyle, would exhaust the town's volunteers , and would leave our community with a facility that would be the inferior of the one currently in place in all ways except for size.

I recognize that my opinion could be construed as someone defending his own hobby and trying to prevent progress, however please note that during the Dickens Village Festival weekend, "Christmas at the Bar Humbug Ranch" played to in excess of 600 people. Obviously not all those people came from outside of Carlyle, but I have spoken to people from Winnipeg, Brandon, Regina and Saskatoon, in addition to people from communities in the area, who have come to Carlyle to see one of our productions, and some have attended a number of Cornerstone Theatre productions. This year a busload of people from Regina attended one performance. These people had come to the Dickens Village Festival in the past, but decided to book hotel rooms so they could attend a performance. We have had reports for a number of years that The Pearl, and before that Cornerstone Shoes, have received phone calls for tickets to our Christmas performance in August. The people brought in from outside of Carlyle contribute to the success of the Dickens Village Festival. The success of Cornerstone Theatre is due partially to the warm and inviting facility in which we operate, and that success has a commercial benefit to the town. More people in town give more commercial opportunities for the businesses in town.

In addition to our facility, there are a number of facilities in town that operate on limited budgets, with volunteer boards, and rely on both financial and labour donations to operate. These facilities include the golf club, curling club, skating rink, and leisure center. I am sure that there are more that I have missed. In a town of finite resources, would it be wise to tackle another project with the potential to absorb so much money, manpower and time to the detriment of all those facilities?

I leave this to the Town to decide, but I believe the current Carlyle Memorial Hall is a facility that is still relevant to Carlyle, and will continue to be an asset in the future.

I invite all interested parties to come and visit the Memorial Hall during the month of January 2014 while the renovations are ongoing. We will be more than willing to show our current facility and equipment and will gladly accept donations of money and labour.

Thank you

Doug Waldner

Chairman, Carlyle Memorial Hall Board

© Copyright Carlyle Observer

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