City Council hears recommendations to resolve challenges for The Centre In The Square and K-W Symphony

This afternoon, four key recommendations coming from an Operational and Strategic Review of the Centre In The Square (CITS) and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (KWS) were presented to Kitchener city council.

The recommendations include: revisiting the mission and mandate of the CITS; reviewing existing plans for the city’s funding relationship with the CITS, specifically as it relates to the city’s arts and culture strategy; reviewing existing plans for physical improvements to the facility; and analyzing the costs and making recommendations to council regarding the proposed improvements.
To address these recommendations, the parties were directed to strike a committee to review CITS’s mandate and mission. As well, a facilitator will be retained to help work through the calendar and operational matters. The physical improvement analysis will also begin and be brought back to council in 2015.

“I am pleased to see some concrete recommendations before us, and, equally significant, I commend both the Centre In The Square and the K-W Symphony for the spirit of collaboration and cooperation displayed during this process,” said Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr. “Audits, or reviews of this nature, are never easy, or comfortable, but this has brought us to a place where we have solid action items that I believe, once implemented, will help set a better course for the future of the venue and each of these valuable organizations.”

The review was commissioned by the City of Kitchener, in agreement with the CITS and the KWS, to identify options for future operating models and to recommend the most financially-sustainable operating model to support the CITS and the KWS, as well as their continued partnership. An independent consultant was retained to provide an expert, objective review and make specific recommendations for future decisions regarding the nature of the business relationships, operating arrangements and financial commitments between the City of Kitchener, CITS and KWS. A committee comprised of board members for both organizations and City of Kitchener staff directed this process and engaged with the consultant.

“The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony was instrumental in the beginnings of The Centre over thirty years ago, and they are an important part of The Centre’s future,” Marcus Shantz, CITS Board Chair said. “It was a pleasure to work with the Symphony and the City of Kitchener in this process.”

The review is the start of a long-term conversation and doesn’t impact the current financial circumstance of the venue. CITS has been managing an operating gap for a number of years, and in 2013 and 2014, decisions were made to address deferred maintenance and building improvements, which were paid for through The Centre’s reserves. Mr. Shantz added that “this process has validated the difficult decisions that we have made with the building maintenance and improvements recently.”

Capital improvements and maintenance will continue to be a pressing issue. The Centre has invested $1.8 million recently and has identified an additional $2 million of projects that should be addressed in the near future. The Centre is also responsible for maintaining more than 20,000 square feet of space occupied by the KW Art Gallery, which also requires attention and upgrades to meet their operating needs.

Mr. Shantz also noted that as CITS embarks on its 35th anniversary next year, “we hope to continue changing the way people see, think about and experience the CITS. The CITS is not only an exceptional building but also a key presenter and animator of the performing arts within our community.”

The recommendations from the consultant’s report will lead to further discussions and collaboration between all three organizations in order to analyze and choose the best course of action. Both Shantz, and Catherine Copp, KWS Board Chair noted that the CITS and the KWS are committed to working through the next stage of this process together.

“The KWS is committed to working with the CITS to explore each of the recommendations, as we continue to build our partnership,” commented Copp. “The CITS is an incredible venue that has been taking steps to reach new audiences with fresh programming like Wicked and John Legend. We look forward to working collaboratively as we continue to build on what we have learned throughout this process. This report is only one element of a multi-faceted dialogue and is an important building block from which we can move forward with CITS.”

Kitchener’s manager of Arts and Culture, Silvia di Donato, explained that forming the committee is a first priority of the city as it will be essential in moving forward to continue the development of the collaborative relationships that exist.

“Now is the time to maximize opportunities for both organizations as they continue to provide substantial arts, culture and entertainment that is essential to the community,” di Donato said.