By Greg MacFarlane
A new regional performing arts centre will be beneficial to our community in many ways. From an economic perspective, the new facility promises to have an overwhelmingly positive impact on Fredericton and the surrounding region.
The existing Playhouse already has a major impact on our regional and provincial economy. During our 2016-17 season, our facility was in use 201 days, and we issued a total of 50,335 tickets. All of those ticketholders spent money with a Fredericton-based organization, and in the process, they were likely to spend money at other local businesses as well.
Many of our patrons stop by a downtown restaurant for food or a drink before or after a show. And while the majority of people who attend Playhouse shows live in the region, people from other communities also travel to Fredericton on a regular basis to attend performances at the Playhouse, and are likely to stay in a hotel, or go shopping during their visit.
Of course, the Playhouse also employs Frederictonians, with 15 full-time staff members, and dozens of additional casual and part-time employees.
A thriving performing arts scene plays a key role in attracting skilled workers and investment to a community. It’s a major part of what makes a city more “livable” and we know that a community’s quality of life has a huge influence on whether doctors, professionals, or other skilled workers are willing to choose to locate there.
In 2016, Business for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council commissioned a study called Culture for Competitiveness: How Vibrant Culture Attracts Top Talent. It showed that 65 per cent of the businesses and skilled workers surveyed agree that a thriving arts and culture scene is a driving factor when considering relocation. Of the skilled workers surveyed, 36 per cent cited theatre, plays and concerts as an important element of a community, and 34 per cent felt arts and cultural events and festivals were important.
The Playhouse already plays a major role in benefiting Fredericton’s economy, but a new state-of-the-art performing arts centre will have an even more significant impact on our region. The facility’s two auditoriums – an 850-seat theatre, and a 300-seat studio theatre – will increase the number of performances we can offer each year, and the size of the audiences able to attend each show.
An economic impact study commissioned by the Playhouse in 2015 found that the construction phase of a new performing arts centre would create an estimated 714 jobs, and would contribute $141 million to the economy. Moreover, the report estimated that the ongoing operation and use of the facility would be responsible for an additional 101 permanent jobs, and an annual $15.5-million injection into the economy.
The data used to conduct that study came from the earlier feasibility study work that concluded that there would be 268 shows per year in the new performing arts centre’s two auditoriums. That means the estimated economic spin-offs per show equal approximately $58,000. Consider this – every time we hold an event, we are essentially creating an average of one full-time job. In the new performing arts centre, we will more than double our current economic impact.
Fredericton business networks have been highly supportive of the development of the new performing arts centre, in large part because of the positive impact it will have on our economy and job creation. When the results of the economic impact study were released, Bruce McCormack, General Manager of Downtown Fredericton Inc. said he felt there was no project that would have a greater impact on the downtown than this one, noting that arts and entertainment make downtown Fredericton an exciting place to be.
Fredericton Chamber of Commerce CEO Krista Ross also had a positive response to the study, noting that job creation is great for our local businesses, and in addition, robust cultural amenities and offerings can make our region more attractive as a place to expand and establish businesses.
The Fredericton Playhouse is already an important part of our local economy; the creation of a new regional performing arts centre will only serve to significantly increase that impact.
Greg MacFarlane is the Vice-President of Fredericton Playhouse Inc.’s Board of Directors.