A Sunday morning jam at the Palace Grand Theatre during the Dawson City Music Festival in 2008. The theatre is reopening this year after its closure in 2016 for renovations. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Dawson’s Palace Grand theatre set to re-open this summer

$6M project installed new heating, electrical, ventilation, and fire suppression systems

The Palace Grand theatre in Dawson City will be open this summer after being closed for two years and $6 million worth of renovations.

The Klondike National Historic Site was closed to the public in early 2016 for the first set of major renovations since it was built in the 1960s.

The plan is to reopen the theatre for the season at the start of June and possibly hold a few events in May, said David Rohatensky, superintendent for Klondike National Historic Sites.

When staff throw open the doors this summer, visitors to the theatre will likely not see much of a difference between what it looked like two years ago and what it looks like now.

Much of the work was done in the walls, Rohatensky said. The theatre got new heating, electrical, ventilation and air conditioning as well as a new fire suppression system.

“We’ve been dealing with structural and foundation work because the building, like much of Dawson, sits on active permafrost,” he said.

While nothing in the building was failing, the systems were “certainly showing their age,” he said.

The final price tag came in at just over $6 million. All the money came from federal infrastructure funding.

Rohatensky said there was an opportunity to get additional funding from Ottawa and proceed with with work “so we took advantage of that opportunity.”

Since the theatre is a recognized historic site, contractors were required to follow specific federal and territorial guidelines for how to work in the building without damaging it.

“The work that we do, above all, has to respect the heritage character, the features, the architectural elements, all of the design and aesthetic components of the building that make it such a unique iconic performing venue,” Rohatensky said.

Parks Canada officials were on site making sure that nothing was damaged.

“The priority has been to make sure that those features are unchanged, that they remain and are protected.”

Now that the theatre is set to re-open, some of its old tenants are returning. For two years the Dawson City Music Festival has had to use other venues but now acts will be able to perform in the theatre again.

“We’re very excited,” said Dawson City Music Festival Association executive director Andrea Vincent in an email.

“In addition to using it as a festival venue, we’ll be hosting our first kick-off show in two years.”

The Palace Grand theatre in Dawson now is a replica of a theatre that was originally opened in July 1899.

That theatre “was a combination of a luxurious European opera house and a boomtown dance hall,” according to Parks Canada’s website.

It played host to a variety of entertainment, from wild west shows to opera.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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