Expropriated land in the downtown core could one day be home to a multiplex movie theatre.
Council voted 9-1 in favour of a motion to explore the possibility of a theatre on the land where the failed Sports and Entertainment Complex was originally supposed to be built.
The recommendation was brought forward by the citizen-led Land, Planning, and Development Advisory Committee. The group spent six months creating ideas for using the four-acre plot of land, setting up an advanced pro-con system to evaluate each proposal. Committee Chair Bryce Kumka appeared on Fort McMurray Matters on Tuesday to discuss the process, and the ultimate decision to recommend the multiplex theatre option.
Kumka explained to council Tuesday night that the theatre could include other offerings like an arcade, bowling alley, and sports bar.
“It’s one of those places you can go with your buddys, with your kids, with your spouse,” he said. “It really hit the demographic that is most prevalent in our community.”
Councillors seemed to latch on to the idea of bowling as a key draw.
“We’ve robbed a generation of bowlers up here,” said Councillor Phil Meagher, referring to the closure of Fort McMurray’s only bowling alley several years ago. “From birthday parties, to the special needs fundraisers we used to have, we really have [robbed them].”
No theatre companies have been approached at this point about developing the site, and councillors didn’t raise the question of the impact on the planned Landmark Theatre in Eagle Ridge.
Councillor Allan Vinni was the only “no” vote on the proposal. He didn’t explain his reasoning during debate, but told Mix News afterwards that he was “disappointed” with the recommendation.
“I don’t see multiplex theatres as a catalyst for downtown,” he said. “We’ve got nobody who’s expressed interest in building anything in this town for the past year. That’s just not going to happen. We have to be more patient with that land.”
With council’s vote, administration will now explore the feasibility of getting a downtown multiplex theatre and craft a strategy for how to get one built by April 30 of this year.