A little less pump at the house

Pumphouse Theatre shelving six-year expansion dreams

After working diligently for the past six years to make his dreams of expanding the Pumphouse Theatre a reality executive director Scott McTavish confirmed that the popular venue is shelving its $13-million expansion plans.

While the Pumphouse Theatre will remain open gone are the plans for an additional 150-seat theatre (there are currently two theatres seating 75 and 300 respectively) an art gallery new rehearsal spaces a restaurant and a cultural business centre.

“It’s certainly disappointing” says McTavish. “This project was important to me but it’s also a loss for the city of Calgary. This would have been a much-needed arts incubator in the city and would have provided much-needed rehearsal studios too.”

McTavish points out there are far more recreation centres hockey rinks and soccer fields than arts facilities here.

“We want to be a cultural hub yet there aren’t all that many cultural facilities. This is definitely a blow to Calgary as a whole” he says.

A city review of the project added an additional $2 million for site-related items to the original $13-million budget — basically too much extra for a small company to absorb says McTavish.

The Pumphouse was already going to provide $3 million with the city pitching in $4 million and the province and federal government $3 million each.

“[It’s] not only about the money but it meant a delay of at least a year to the project. We have limited resources and we don’t have the same avenues to go to for funding like companies like the Epcor and Cantos do.”

McTavish says the Pumphouse will remain operational and believes the theatre is still an affordable facility for Calgarians.

“We’re still going to be the cheapest venue in town and keep running great shows with great companies.”

The news was also disappointing for Ground Zero artistic director Ryan Luhning whose show Evil Dead: The Musical was going to be the Pumphouse’s last hurrah before the expansion.

Luhning planned to incorporate the entire Pumphouse space into the performance making the show extra bloody and messy since it was going to be demolished.

“Now the show is still going to happen but we will have to tone it down a bit” Luhning says. “But we will adapt and it will still be a kick-ass show. Now we just have to make sure we clean up when we’re done.”

Luhning expressed his sympathy for McTavish who he says worked diligently for the past six years on the expansion plans.

“It’s so demoralizing” says Luhning. “I can’t imagine how disappointing that would be.”

Despite the disappointment McTavish says he doesn’t have any plans to revive the expansion.

“To be honest it’s a lot of work and resources and almost like a full-time job in itself” he says. “I am not going to say never but I don’t see it happening in the foreseeable future. We’re just going to try and move on and keep delivering to Calgarians like we do now.”