Westdale Theatre is saved, and that is something worth celebrating.
When the venue first hit the market, there was an understandable panic. Part of Westdale’s charm is the business community along King Street, and losing the theatre would magnify the changes that have happened to the area over the past five years. Corporate franchises like Pizza Nova have popped up and weakened the community feel of the neighbourhood. If we had lost the theatre, it could signal a shift towards a more corporate Westdale. Instead, the opposite has happened.
According to the Hamilton Spectator, a not-for-profit group called Westdale Cinema Group purchased the theatre a month ago. Graham Crawford, Fred Fuchs, Bob Crockford and Jeremy Freiburger led WTG and rounded up the cash to save the theatre.
The next steps are significant. Westdale Theatre requires a variety of upgrades, ranging from new seats to replacing the heating and ventilation systems. The Spectator reports that the venue could be closed for a year to complete renovations.
Those renovations will not be as expensive as originally thought, though. Crawford told the Spectator that “electricians, designers, painters, neon sign experts and caterers” have offered free help.
In a few short months, the Westdale Theatre has gone from the brink of existence to an iconic Hamilton project. The passion this city has for itself is hard to ignore and at times, it can feel exaggerated. Hamilton has tried to brand itself as “the ambitious city” but light rail transit and bike lanes remain weekly topics at city council meetings. Cities don’t turn on a dime, but Hamilton tends to drag things out.
The Hammer wears its heart on its sleeve, whether that is on a Saturday afternoon at Tim Hortons Field for the Tiger-Cats or during Supercrawl in September. The people of Hamilton care about what makes this city different and they will fight to keep the unique aspects of it, spending their own time or money to do so. With the Westdale Theatre, we have the prime example of what the citizens of the city are about.