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Wednesday, 27 April 2016 15:32

Lyric Theatre is an example of what (downtown) optimism can do

Written by  Joey Donnelly
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Prince sang about a new city with streets of gold. The young so educated they never grow old.


His vision of a future transcending the ills of today’s world plants a tiny mustard seed of hope for generations to come.
When I look at the Lyric Theatre standing on Central Avenue, I’m moved with the same optimism for Swift Current and our historic downtown.
“There’s such a positive feeling right now about the downtown,” said Stephen Plunkard with WSP Consulting. “With all of the people that we’ve encountered, a lot of the older folks are looking for some of the things that happened that were really good in the past, and then the young people want a more hip environment and I think we can accommodate both.”
Plunkard and Tripp Muldrow from Arnett-Muldrow & Associates hosted public engagement sessions at the former Robinson’s Electronics building.
The consulting firm has prepared a dozen concept drawings of what a revitalized downtown would look like, including plans for a remodeled train station, a more accessible Memorial Park, and improvements to the Pharmasave shopping plaza.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to get everybody working on the same page,” said Mayor Jerrod Schafer at Monday’s city council meeting.
The city’s development of the downtown master plan is in conjunction with Saskatchewan’s Main Street Program. Last year, the Lyric Theatre was the first to be rewarded a matching grant to replace their upstairs windows. Brock Friesen is the vice-chair of the Swift Current Main Street board of directors.
“The Main Street Saskatchewan grants program really bases it on three areas of funding, which is capacity building, heritage conservation and also with community enhancements — with the streets, the sidewalks, certainly cultural. So, we’re really looking forward to having that partnership with the city,” Friesen said.
As we met in Robinson’s Electronics, I remembered its past owner, George Kushner and his early support of the Lyric.
George had once worked in the Lyric during his youth and provided our fledgling non-profit with Lyric memorabilia and its first sound system — vintage movie speakers.
“He was a community-minded and community-involved person,” recalled Henry Banman. In 2014, Henry and his wife, Diana ran the liquidation store, a couple lots up from the Lyric.
Banman was entrusted with the key to the theatre when Harold Goodwin, the owner for the Inferno (the last bar at the Lyric) returned to his native B.C.
“It all came together beautifully,” he told me.
Henry trusted me and the early organizers with the chance to tour the facility and access it at any time prior to ownership.
“I believe in divine intervention,” Banman said. “I believe that sometimes if we as people are perceptive, then we’re going to do the right thing at the right time. It’s not stumbling into the right thing, but it’s just being open and ready. And when the times and the stars all line up, it’s easy.”
Farmers understand the pull of the land — it’s in their bones. Here in the southwest, we also recognize the pull of the Lyric and a collective desire to build a better city for our children and generations to come.
With an intellect and a savoir faire, we will continue to grow.
For more information about the Lyric and other upcoming shows, visit lyrictheatre.ca, like the Facebook page, or phone 306-773-6292.
(Joey Donnelly is a news reporter for Golden West Radio, folklorist and Lyric board member.)

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