Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes expects some “exciting” updates in the next few months regarding a movie studio and casino proposed for the municipality and sees both as opportunities for economic growth in the region.
The District has been in talks about bringing both a film studio and casino to Saanich for several years and, according to Haynes, news of both facilities can be expected this year.
“There are some serious things about to happen,” he told Black Press Media.
While Haynes would not reveal specific details, he emphasized that he’s “really excited” and looking forward to filling residents in on plans for both facilities.
In 2016, Saanich and Victoria were shortlisted by the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) for a new south Island casino. A year later, the lottery corporation chose Victoria to host the region’s second casino but Mayor Lisa Helps later announced that the City was no longer interested due to concerns about drugs and money laundering. This March, the lottery corporation sent a letter to Saanich council expressing interest in potentially bringing a “gaming and entertainment facility” to the District.
Haynes doesn’t share Helps’ concerns; he feels the casino – which he said would include a hotel, restaurants and an entertainment facility – would be a positive addition to the region. He’s been “pleased with conversations” between Saanich and the BCLC and added that while the project has been on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he expects an update on the proposed casino before the end of 2020.
Haynes pointed out that a casino would be an opportunity to increase the District’s economic resilience following the financial impacts of the pandemic. Revenue from the casino could range from $2.5 million to $3 million, he said, and 10 per cent of the income goes to the host municipality’s government.
A movie studio would also bring a “non-manufacturing” economic lift to the region, Haynes explained. As the province recently announced that B.C. movie studios could reopen and production could resume with new safety guidelines, Haynes feels it’s the perfect time to resume efforts to bring a studio to Saanich.
He added that with B.C.’s successful handling of COVID-19, there’s been increased interest from production companies outside the province wanting to film in B.C. and Haynes hopes to attract some of that business to the South Island.
“All we’re missing is the studio,” he said.
Haynes has long been supportive of bringing a movie studio with two sound-stages to the region – the concept was included in his mayoral campaign in 2018 and he’s committed to making it a reality. He expects there could eventually be three or four sound stages in the South Island region.