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Looking Back: Doing it Right - Not Fast


John Kinnear

May 8, 2024

So what say we back this theater bus up a bit and update everyone on how it has gone so far. 

Historical restoration and preservation is a complicated business these days and when it occurs at the larger scale like the Roxy Revival Project, it is rather onerous to say the least. So what say we back this theater bus up a bit and update everyone on how it has gone so far. 

Act 1 of this community play opened with the acquisition of the Roxy building in January of 2021 with $55,000 in funds from the general public, $10,000 from Community Futures and a further $50,000 from the Cando Society funds which had been secured since 2011.  

To bring Act 2 about, there was Government of Alberta Historical Resources funding of $100,000 which assisted with design planning.

Act 2  - In the Fall of 2022 is when things really started rolling with engineering diagrams completed and then modified to include the acquisition of what is now called the Roxy West Building (aka the Montem Building). This was an exciting and important strategic decision that provides new washrooms on the West’s main floor instead of in the basement of the Roxy. The west building was completely refurbished and comes with a perfect lounge area, kitchen, green room for artists, and space for a performing arts centre.  This acquisition was no easy feat and took some back and forth negotiations but in the end was just the ticket for taking the Roxy experience to another level. One of the unique things about blending these buildings is that eventually a doorway will be opened at the top of the west  theatre aisle that leads into the lounge. Now doesn’t that sound just perfect. 

Act 3 - Construction-September of 2023 is when serious upgrading started and boy does this act have a lot of action.  Scene 1- Right off the bat, the Post Office ramp (which was built like the Titanic) was removed and an alternate ramp constructed. Scene 2 involved a pretty serious chain of events. Early inspections revealed that both south corners of the foundation were cracked and required replacement. Then the foundation was dug down on all four sides to the bottom of the concrete walls, which took some doing, especially that tricky business on Main Street.  Once all the concrete support was exposed there had to be inspections and assessments done both outside and inside. It was found that some floor support beam connected to the foundation had rotted and had to be replaced. Then on the outside, all the cracks had to be injected with sealant and then the whole business shotcreted all the way around. Once this cement-type parging was cured, which involved winter cladding and propane heaters, then special water proofing dimpled membranes were applied to then provide a foundation that should be good for a hundred years.  The drainage off the Roxy’s curved roof means everything had to be well waterproofed. 

Scene 3 unfolded up top with the low sloped roof being replaced and the chimney reconstructed.  Inside, all the ceiling panelling and horse hair insulation in behind it was removed (yes-horse hair!)  The stage area required that the old outside stairs and doors be replaced with a backstage level door to the outside, where stairs and a covered walkway to the Roxy West green room will be constructed.  The space between the Roxy and Roxy West needed attention because of how moisture drains off a Quonset. Conduit was laid out to allow for the electrical wiring to enter the building at the basement level. The space between the buildings then had sloped concrete to control moisture movement.  

But wait, there’s more.  Scene 4 - The west stairwell to the upstairs where the projector room was, was removed along with the old washrooms. This will be replaced by new stairwells going up and down on the very east side of the foyer which will require a new, more substantial basement concrete pad to support them. An interesting twist for scene 4 was that some burnt joists were encountered from the 1950 fire and were replaced.  

All this was facilitated by substantial contributions by Teck Resources -$250,000, Parks Canada- $250,000, Blairmore Lions - $25,000, Coleman Lions - $10,000 plus additional yearly commitments, and Northback - $34,000. Many other donations from the Coleman Community Society, the Crowsnest Symphony, DG Productions, private donations and of course the Red Raven plays and CanDo Winterventions which brought in another $60,000, set up the conditions to allow Roxy Construction to begin. On going with this is the Seat Association Campaign driven by a man directly connected to the history of the Roxy,  Brian Dobek.  Brain, who can often be found with guitar in hand these days, is the driving force behind this important program. Just to clarify how this works.  It is in fact not an actual seat sale but a donation program towards the Roxy’s revival that will be acknowledged by having your name(s) on the back of a seat and eventually, once open for occupancy, on a commemorative plaque on the Roxy’s new walls. Plus a right of first refusal on events for your seat.

As you may have noticed the Roxy/CanDo group have ramped things up fundraising and event-wise these last few months. One of their latest creative efforts is the decorated violin auction which is still ongoing. To bid on these unique creations look for the link that can be found on the Crowsnest CanDo facebook page.  

As I write this (Sunday morning) they are all preparing for one final spectacular voting push on this day as part of the Next Great Save- Canada National Trust competition.  There is a $50,000 prize and a private offering to double that amount should they win. They are holding a Vote-A-Thon nonstop musical extravaganza, led by the Roxy band On the Rox at the museum that they hope will push them on to a win.  

Facebook pages are full of testimonials of support, moving videos and links to media coverage by CBC and Global.  One that really caught my eye was a passionate Facebook plea made by Rebecca Dewey of the Crowsnest Pass Heritage Youth Theater Company. She recognizes, as many do, how it will foster important opportunities for young musicians and actors. They are out there, young and old, and are all really excited to know we will have this wonderful venue to present and grow their talents.  They, along with local musicians, groups like the Turning Point Dancers and the Red Ravens Performing Artists Society can clearly see the opportunity.  It is exciting to imagine the Roxy as a thriving arts centre.

Going forward there are some important things to understand about this monumental effort. Firstly, the unfaltering determination and over-the-top volunteerism that keeps the Roxy Revival on track is clearly something that deserves acknowledgement. There have been thousands of hours involved so far in what has gone on. Contract design and letting and coordination of the same through some very tricky hoops, heritage wise and code wise, is the forte of the incredibly hard working treasurer and chair of the building committee, Don Budgen, whose mantra is “Do It Right Not Fast”.  The ever present communications director Howard Vandenhoef can always be found looking after documentation and the unflappable fundraising director, Pat Rypien, has and is taking fund raising schemes to new levels.

Some others on this team include Flavia Pirozzi- director of marketing (Facebook and posters), Heather O’Bear –ethics and process, Alison Sandilands – director at large, Tim Juhlin - president and Craig Duncan – vice president. Fred Bradley sits on that building committee and is of great assistance in grant writing.

There is much work still to be done. This year’s agenda includes the installation of a 6 inch waterline (a code requirement for sprinkler systems), Quonset roof repairs and sealing, ceiling upgrades, stairwell construction and the basement floor replacement. The front aluminum will be redone and the front door system restored to its original look. There is even brick restorative work in the front that must be done by a masonist certified to do heritage work. Contractors like that are not easy to find. And of course the hardwood floors sanded and painted and the inside panels on the walls replaced with insulation and a vapour barrier behind them.

Grant writing is a huge part of moving forward for the Roxy with sometimes onerous reporting systems but it is an important part of the overall plan for things like the curtain and lighting systems and a whole myriad of issues yet to be dealt with. A lot of this update that I have presented is posted in the theater windows to show transparency. The Roxy still needs a lot of consistent community support and donations. The workload for the Revival is huge and if you would like to join this leadership team and lend you talents to it please reach out by email to  The CanDo board is currently looking for citizens active in performing arts to join an advisory committee to look into some of the issues CanDo are facing like lighting, sound, seating, colour themes, programming etc.

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