Regional councillors press pause on Rolling Stones exhibit funding request

Regional councillors have pressed pause on a request from TheMuseum in Kitchener for $100,000 to promote an upcoming exhibit about the Rolling Stones outside Waterloo region.

TheMuseum asked for the money to promote Unzipped, which is scheduled to open Nov. 30. It is the Canadian premiere of the travelling exhibit. TheMuseum says the exhibit could bring thousands of people to the region to see the memorabilia from the band and other related exhibits.

Regional councillors were considering the request Tuesday during a committee meeting. Regional staff had recommended no action be taken on the request, citing the fact that TheMuseum is in the second year of a three-year review of its finances, and there have been “some concerns with their operations.”

In a presentation to regional councillors during a committee meeting on Tuesday, TheMuseum’s CEO, David Marskell, said he felt the region as a whole will benefit from the exhibit.

“This is a huge, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for TheMuseum and I believe for the region,” he told councillors. “We plan to make this festival as big as possible, working with as many community partners as possible to support the hotels, restaurants, bars and help reboot the local economy.”

Tickets already sold

TheMuseum started promoting the exhibit last September and Marskell said they’ve sold nearly 100,000 tickets already. They’re also working to secure corporate nights and bus tours, he said, noting they’ve had interest from people “as far away as Nova Scotia.”

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic suggested regional council should hold off supporting or denying TheMuseum money until there are conversations with the federal and provincial governments about possible funding opportunities.

Once those other funding avenues have been explored, Vrbanovic said, then the region could “potentially look at how this leads into some of our post-COVID recovery efforts going forward.”

Contingency plan in case of COVID-19?

Regional Coun. Tom Galloway asked if there was a contingency plan for the exhibit if the COVID-19 pandemic was still a factor later this year.

“I think the project is pretty dependent on people feeling comfortable to travel, feeling comfortable to take out hotel rooms and come to the exhibit,” he said.

Marksell said TheMuseum has an out clause in its contract that would allow it to cancel the exhibit for “a very small penalty” three months ahead of the opening date.

Galloway said that clause is good for TheMuseum, but the $100,000 being requested of the region would likely already be spent advertising the exhibit in areas like Toronto, Montreal, Quebec and potentially Buffalo and Detroit.

The request was deferred until Marskell is able to provide more information on efforts to seek funding from other levels of government.

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