Ottawa’s Bronson Centre gets Toronto investment

An progressive partnership between a Toronto music venue and Ottawa’s Bronson Centre will convey extra reside music to the nation’s capital and assist social enterprise on the identical time.

The homeowners of Toronto’s Phoenix Music Theatre have struck a long-term lease with Ottawa’s Bronson Centre that may permit the centre to take care of its position as a hub for not-for-profit neighborhood teams whereas they enhance its capability for reside music. Booking administration might be dealt with by the well-connected Toronto-based live performance promoter, Collective Concerts.

“Our lease is going to help support their social enterprise initiative,” mentioned Phoenix co-owner Lisa Zbitnew of the partnership. “By being in there on a consistent basis, it will support their whole mandate of affordability for the 40 not-for-profit charities that use it. Our part will be operating a music theatre within it, which will help keep those charities functioning in an affordable way.”

Originally owned by the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and operated as Immaculata High School, Bronson Centre is now a registered charitable company that gives reasonably priced lease to artists, cultural associations and different neighborhood teams. Executive director Corey Mayville mentioned he’s delighted with the partnership, noting it can elevate the centre’s profile and offset the low lease.

“This is an older facility so a nice fixup will go over well,” he mentioned.

Renovations will begin this summer season with the set up of detachable seats to accommodate standing crowds, a change made attainable by a $148,000 grant from Ontario’s Trillium Foundation obtained this yr by Bronson Centre. Also on the want record for the constructing, which is near 100 years outdated, is an upgraded sound system, enhancements to the restroom services and air con. The new Bronson Centre Music Theatre is predicted to open in October.

Of course, Bronson Centre has been a music venue for not less than 20 years, used repeatedly by Ottawa live performance promoter Shawn Scallen. His firm, Spectrasonic, has booked everybody from outlaw roots-rocker Steve Earle to pop famous person Lady Gaga (in her early days), together with common appearances by Canadian acts, together with Sheepdogs, Headstones, Wintersleep and extra. The Ohio hardcore band Beartooth carried out there on Tuesday, and singer-songwriter Neko Case performs on Saturday. Concerts already booked will proceed as ordinary. 

Under the brand new partnership, Zbitnew mentioned they plan to double the variety of exhibits within the first yr, from about 50 to 100. Collective Concerts’ Amy Hersenhoren sees it as a “wonderful opportunity” to usher in acts that will not in any other case go to the area.

“We’re open to business with promoters of all kinds,” Zbitnew mentioned, together with Spectrasonic in that group. “French and English, rock and alternative music, reggae, soca, hip hop and more. You’re going to see a ton more shows representing the diversity of the city. Our intent is to go big on the quality and quantity of shows and make it a great experience for the concertgoer.”

Local staff might be employed to employees the exhibits, she added.

Zbitnew, who spent a few of her youthful days within the Ottawa space in the course of the live-music heyday of Barrymore’s Music Hall, mentioned she and her enterprise companion had been on the lookout for different venues in Toronto, however discovered the market to be saturated. She was reminded of Ottawa by Erin Benjamin, president and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association, who’s based mostly in Ottawa and is an avid champion of the native music trade.

Zbitnew describes the 850-capacity Bronson Centre as a “hidden gem” that might be comparable, although smaller, to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall, which holds about 1,400 individuals.

“Once the seats are out and the PA is upgraded, it’s going to have great sightlines and acoustically, it’s going to sound great,” she mentioned. “It’s in Centretown so it’s easy to get to, and with the LRT coming in, it will be even easier to get to. It really does check a lot of the boxes for a venue that satisfies the market in terms of size and access.”

City politicians say the revamped facility will fill a venue hole recognized within the 2015 report on the state of Ottawa’s music industries. “I am very pleased with this important investment,” Mayor Jim Watson mentioned in an announcement. “The revitalization of the facility will help us deliver on a Music Strategy objective of creating an appropriate mid-sized venue in our city.”

“We see jobs, enhanced tourism experiences and lots of spin-off investment coming out of this partnership,” added Kitchissippi councillor Jeff Leiper.

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