Victoria College reveals plans for Welder Center
May 4, 2012 at 12:04 a.m.
Updated May 5, 2012 at 12:05 a.m.
Victoria College is pressing ahead with plans to take over the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.
In February, the college entered into a plan with the Victoria Performing Arts Center - a nonprofit that owns the Welder Center - which gave VC 90 days to study what a takeover of the downtown building could look like.
At a VC board of trustees workshop Friday, board members reviewed a draft of the study, which concluded "the transfer of the Welder Center to Victoria College is not only feasible, but greatly desirable."
The deal would transfer the building's title to the college, meaning VC would take over VPAC's outstanding debt. Though the amount of debt hasn't been determined, VC President Tom Butler said the college is anticipating paying somewhere in the $30,000 range for the estimated $4.5 million building.
"It's hard to say that's a bad deal," Butler said.
The college does anticipate losing money - about $95,000 according to a projected balance sheet - from the deal, at least during the first year.
That's taking into account revenues from rental fees, including a $25,000 annual fee from the current resident company, Theatre Victoria, and $43,500 rental fee from LifePointe Fellowships, which conducts its services in the center.
Expenses include utilities, advertising, insurance and salaries and benefits for a center manager, technical manager and custodian.
Butler said the college anticipates breaking even within three years, thanks to increased marketing and use of the facility, as well as charging Theatre Victoria more to rent the space.
The $25,000 figure, the study notes, is well below market rental rates for a nonprofit, and was set to allow Theatre Victoria time to adjust to the changes VC is proposing.
"We never ever really expect any one building to pay for itself," Butler said. "That's not really what we're about. We're an educational facility. We serve the community."
The draft study also includes suggestions for a new operational arrangement at the Welder Center.
Currently, VPAC pays for costs related to insuring and protecting the facilities, while Theatre Victoria pays all other costs. The theatre earns revenues from its productions and other rentals of the facility.
The executive director for Theatre Victoria also has been responsible for operations at the Welder Center, including things such as setting the calendar and running the box office.
Under VC's proposal, the college would take over the costs of maintaining the center and would earn the revenues from outside rentals. Theatre Victoria would remain the resident company and keep control of the box office and concession stands.
VC, however, would take over setting the calendar and running the day-to-day operations at the Welder Center.
Anticipating the changes, Theatre Victoria's executive director, Staci Robbins, resigned Tuesday.
Omar Rachid, president of Theatre Victoria's Board of Governors, said the board is in agreement that VC's plan is beneficial for all involved.
"We are extremely ecstatic about them coming to the Welder Center and, quite frankly, taking over the operations of the building," Rachid said. "This is definitely an opportunity for us to concentrate on what we do best, and that is to put on theatrical plays."
VC's feasibility team interviewed more than 20 groups who are potential users of the Welder Center. All current users, including The Victoria Film Festival, are interested in continuing their involvement with the center, according to the study.
Some, though, expressed concerns about high rental rates and rental availability, which VC has vowed to address.
The college also plans to heavily market the center in hopes it will be used more often.
Butler said the college is committed to maintaining the original purpose of the Welder Center, which is providing a place for the community to experience the arts.
"First among these larger issues is the importance of having the Welder Center continue to be serving our community as the stellar performing arts center that it was envisioned to be, and has become," the draft reads.
If an agreement is drawn up in time, the VC board could approve the transfer of the Welder Center at its May 21 meeting.