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Chilliwack Cultural Centre beats expectations

They're being optimistic, but still a tad cautious in making future projections about the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

Ticket sales were actually a "little better" than expected in the first eight months of operation, said Dave Stephen, president of the Chilliwack Arts and Cultural Centre.

"I'm pleased to report we feel we have largely achieved our budget expectations," said Stephen. "So far it's been a productive and gratifying time."

The $500,000 milestone in ticket revenues was described as "phenomenal" by Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz, after Stephen's presentation to council Tuesday afternoon.

His report covered a number of stellar successes and special events logged at the Cultch, from the glamorous Red Carpet Affair in September to the solid number of sold-out shows to date, to four big productions by the Chilliwack Players Guild.

They filled 33,000 seats in under a year.

The initial season of dance performance — the first of its kind Chilliwack has ever witnessed — went well, as did the season of children's entertainment.

Room rentals are going strong in both numbers and variety, "which gives us the most pleasure," he said, mentioning the annual Lions Music and Dance Festival, as well as Home Depot and the Chilliwack school district.

The Chilliwack Art Gallery has attracted many appreciative art lovers, and the numbers have also "exceeded initial hopes," said the official.

The various capital fundraising and naming efforts have netted a total of $132,000, "pledged and paid" to date.

"Overall we would not have been able to do it without our volunteers," he added.

A staggering 4,300 volunteer hours have been logged by folks who take tickets or hand out programs for example.

The Cultural Centre society operates the Cultural Centre on behalf of the City of Chilliwack with a $400,000 management agreement, but it still responsible for generating $600,000 to $700,000 of the $1-million operating budget.

Coun. Stewart McLean asked for a snapshot of their future plans and Stephen said "the hope was to animate every single space" in the building.

The emphasis has been on the two main theatres.

Mayor Gaetz thanked Stephen and his fellow board members for the hard work, vision and tenacity they've shown, as well as Coun. Pat Clark for her leadership on the project.

"You're an example to other communities of how it could be," she said to Stephen. "A half-million dollars in ticket sales is phenomenal in the first year of operation, and your volunteer base is remarkable.

"They do it because they want to see the arts flourish."

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