Consider it a fixer-upper for True North Sports and Entertainment in their purchase of the historic Burton Cummings Theatre.
The ownership group behind the Winnipeg Jets announced they have given formal notice to the Walker Theatre Performing Arts Group Inc. that they intend to exercise its option to buy the building.
Terms of the deal are not being released, but part of it does include True North dollars going towards renovations over the past two years.
“We’re hundreds of thousands of dollars of hard cash into this building, to date,” said Kevin Donnelly, Senior Vice President of Venues and Entertainment.
There have been new pipes and windows installed. The backstage green rooms have all been redone and a gym has been added for bands and crew members.
Concert-goers will notice more men’s and women’s washrooms along with new seats being added.
Nearly 200 of the 500 seats on the main floor have been replaced and repositioned. The remaining 800 or so will be refurbished in the coming weeks, according to Donnelly.
But, there is still a long list of upgrades planned including adding air conditioning, which is near the top of the ‘to do’ list.
“It’s something we hope to do in the immediate future,” Donnelly said.
“We think this building deserves it, the patrons that come in the summer deserve it and they will enjoy it.”
Plans also include fixing up the exterior, especially the sign that hangs outside.
Another idea True North is looking at down the road includes the installation of an elevator. Donnelly admits it will be a big challenge for the 109 year old structure.
“That’s a lot of steps and whether you’re healthy or not the notion of having that option is definitely mandatory,” Donnelly said.
“We don’t know how, we don’t know when but it’s something we’ve got on our list and we know it’s something we have to try and solve in the very near future.”
Originally known as the Walker Theatre, it was constructed in 1907 for ballets, operas and plays. It was converted in 1945 to the Odeon Cinema which came to be the city’s most popular movie theatre.
It closed in 1990, but was bought by a non-profit organization, the Walker Theatre Performance Arts Group Inc. and converted it back into live entertainment by 1991.
In 2002, it was renamed after Winnipeg-born rocker, Burton Cummings of the Guess Who.
True North Sports and Entertainment has had operating and management control since April 2014.