Gananoque Council votes to sell local theatres to Thousand Islands Playhouse

With a whopping price tag of $10, the Town of Gananoque is selling two of its most beloved locations, the Springer Theatre and the Firehall Theatre, to the organization which has occupied them both for the past 40 years.

During its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, Gananoque Town Council received a report from CAO Shellee Fournier regarding the proposed sale of both properties, and recommending those properties be sold to the Thousand Islands Foundation for the Preforming Arts, the organization behind Thousand Islands Playhouse.

According to the report (available here, begins on page 144), The Town of Gananoque entered into a 49-year lease agreement with the Thousand Islands Foundation for the Preforming Arts in 2015 for the two properties in question. The existing agreement would expire in May 2063, however, “Since 2015, under the existing agreement, the Playhouse has been making improvements to both the building and the cultural operations. In an effort to secure additional grants and funding opportunities, the Playhouse has requested to purchase the building and lands from the Town,” the report explained. The sale agreement also includes a right of first refusal option for the Town to re-purchase the facilities under the same terms should the Foundation ever decide to cease using the lands for cultural purposes.

According to the Town, “The historic venues, originally constructed as the Gananoque Armories and the Gananoque Canoe and Motor Club respectively, now host a wide variety of cultural events and attract more than 45,000 people each summer to the region.”

It was perhaps those two points – the historic value of the buildings and the successful track record of Thousand Islands Playhouse – that prompted Gananoque Town Council to vote in favour of the sale 6-1, essentially a vote of confidence in the local theatre company.

“For decades, the Playhouse has been a key economic driver for Gananoque, and this year, in these challenging times, they have proven themselves to be a true leader for our community. This decision will give the Playhouse the self-sufficiency to make positive changes to the property, and to create a significant cultural hub for Southeastern Ontario,” Gananoque Mayor Ted Lojko said in a statement.

 “I believe that the future of Gananoque is arts and culture, and this agreement is one step towards reaching that future.”

For Brett Christopher, Managing Artistic Director at Thousand Islands Playhouse, the Tuesday night decision acts as a launch pad for the future of arts and culture in the area, he expressed.

“This is a huge moment that will allow us to proceed with a multi-phased vision to reinvigorate the Playhouse properties as accessible gathering spaces,” he said in a statement.

“Our plan is to rejuvenate these historic buildings and to add new life to our beloved waterfront. In order to successfully attract both public and private support, it is essential to own the buildings that we inhabit, and I am so grateful that Council recognized this challenge and is working with us to build a bright future for the community.”

Recently, the Playhouse unveiled renderings for the first phase of planned upgrades for the Springer Theatre facility and property, which includes an outdoor gathering space intended not just for theatregoers, but for community events, as well.

 “Our theatres sit in the heart of the most beautiful region in Ontario,” Christopher said. “These upgrades will ensure that people are able to enjoy them both day and night.”

For more information on Thousand Islands Playhouse and their upcoming events and productions, visit their website here.

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