Coming attraction: Park Theatre getting facelift

A popular south Osborne music venue will soon have a new look.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2018 (1532 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A popular south Osborne music venue will soon have a new look.

In about three weeks, the newly bare-bones exterior of the Park Theatre at 698 Osborne St. will be replaced with a more contemporary wooden facade, digital signs and a brand-new rendering of its iconic flashbulb namesake sign.

“It’s something I’ve been working on for about five years,” said Park Theatre owner Erick Casselman. “It’s what I’ve always wanted the Park to look and feel like.”

The Park Theatre is updating its exterior with wood panels, electronic signs and a new "Park" light sign. (Supplied)

Casselman said the old sign’s lights, first put up in the 1940s, had started to rust and became unsafe. While the new sign won’t twinkle like the old one did – so it doesn’t distract people or waste energy, he said – the replacement will have the same feel as the old one.

“You’re always going to try to play with it, or use the iconicness or the history of the building,” said Casselman. “I’ve gone with a little bit of a different look and feel – something that will look more like what my vision is.”

Casselman said the new digital signs he has lined up, for example, will allow the theatre more freedom in representing the acts it hosts.

“There’ll be screens instead of the marquee signs, but in a way that we can still make it look like an old-school marquee, or whatever kind of look and feel that we want for the particular act that’s coming in that night,” he said.

The $250,000 in upgrades are just another set of changes in the 103-year-old building’s history.

The original theatre first opened in a much smaller building in 1915. The business changed hands several times before being expanded and rebuilt from the inside out in 1936.

Exterior renovations are happening at the Park Theatre. (Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press)

The theatre closed in 1988, reopening for two brief stints in the late 1990s before the vacant building was seized by the city in 1999 after three years of unpaid property taxes.

In 2005, Casselman and a partner bought the property and spent about $400,000 on interior renovations. Casselman bought out full ownership of the theatre in 2011. Now, the Park Theatre hosts over 300 events annually, including live music, comedy and movie screenings.

Casselman said the upgrades were long overdue, and will help bring the theatre into the future with a more modern design.

“It hadn’t had anything besides a coat of paint in 30, 40 years – maybe even longer,” said Casselman. “[People] don’t expect the inside of the building to look the way it does, or even appear as nice as it does, just because the outside was pretty run-down.”

Casselman said he hopes the upgrades to his theatre will help revitalize the area.

“It’s not necessarily an investment that I think I’ll make money off of,” said Casselman. “More importantly, it’s an investment in the neighbourhood… I’m trying to continue that progress of making south Osborne into a more viable place for businesses to come into.”

The old sign’s lights, first put up in the 1940s, have started to rust and became unsafe. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Once the dust settles and the old lights, metal and stucco are cleared away, Casselman said he hopes the renovations will be finished by Dec. 15.

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