West Van's Kay Meek Centre gets $1.48M for accessibility

Even if you find jazz inaccessible, the building it’s played in shouldn’t be.

West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Arts Centre has been given a $1.48-million grant aimed at making the performing arts space more accessible for people with disabilities.

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Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, made the announcement in the building’s atrium Tuesday morning.

Betsy Gibbons, chairwoman for the arts centre’s board, said money would go towards improvements that will benefit Kay Meek audiences and artists alike.

“The federal government’s investment is indeed transformative. The result of this project will be a facility of the highest standards for performance and accessibility. These vital improvements will make our venue a more welcoming space for our diverse community across West Vancouver and the North Shore,” she said.

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Blues musician Jim Byrnes, West Vancouver MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and Kay Meek Arts Centre board chair Betsy Gibbons squeeze into the centre’s tiny elevator. The centre will receive federal funding to improve accessibility. PHOTO CINDY GOODMAN

The list of improvements slated in the $4-million project includes a new commercial-sized elevator connecting all three levels of the building, redesigned pathways and lighting outside the building, a new accessible washroom serving the lower level Studio Theatre, more space for wheelchair seating in the Grosvenor Theatre, improved seating in the Studio Theatre, and state-of-the-art upgrades to the sound and lighting systems.

The building met the B.C. Building Code standards for accessibility when it opened in 2004 but leadership at the centre recently sought out the Rick Hansen Foundation to conduct an accessibility review for the building, which produced the list of recommended upgrades.

Work on the elevator, which has been the biggest source of complaints for people with disabilities, will begin as soon as West Vancouver Secondary School classes let out for the summer.

Tuesday’s announcement included Vancouver blues musician and actor Jim Byrnes belting out a couple ditties. Byrnes, who walks with the assistance of canes, said the funding would be a boon to one of his favourite venues.

“Any time we get the opportunity to use this stage, so much great stuff comes through here.

“It will be even better now for so many people – things that people take for granted in terms of accessibility. Having this funding from the government really is extremely special,” said Byrnes.

The province and the District of West Vancouver are both chipping in $250,000 for the project. Fundraising for the remaining $2-million is well on its way, according to Kay Meek executive director Rob Gloor.

The capital campaign also is looking to raise money through selling naming rights for various components of Kay Meek. Having your name adorn the studio stage will cost you $500,000 but the instrument storage room can be had for a more demure $10,000.

The Kay Meek Arts Centre brings in about 60,000 attendees per year.

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