In this Northeastern Ontario mission, I set out to discover the Capitol Centre in North Bay--reputable for its BIG name and for hosting BIG name acts. I’ll admit after delving in to this venue, I feel as though I’ve missed something over the years. My staycations to North Bay as a Northerner were motivated by the selection of shopping and dining out experiences. This is all good, but from here on in, I’ll be squeezing in a live act or concert, maybe a Sunday cinema, or taking a tour of the featured exhibit in the WKP Kennedy Gallery.
Nearly, 88 years ago the Famous Players Corporation purchased the near-doomed prize building from Louis Tanenbaum, a Sturgeon Falls business man. Its official grand opening was June 1st, 1929 - I really can’t believe I knew nothing about this place, and was even more surprised to learn of its role in giving Roy Thompson his footing in his communications empire.
The golden history of the Capitol Centre, claims home as the very birth place for Canada’s wealthiest media mogul and his legendary communications business. Had Thomson not established his first radio station inside Capitol Centre, one could argue Roy Thomson Hall may never have come to be.
Thomson grew up in Toronto, graduated from business school, held several jobs at different times, one of which was selling radios. However, he found selling radios to be difficult because the only district left for him to work in was Northern Ontario. In order to give his potential customers something to listen to, he undertook to establish a radio station housed in the Capitol Theatre, called CFCH. He officially went on the air in 1931.
During my tour, I was shown several of the rental spaces available for weddings, meetings, and social gatherings. I’ll coin a phrase here and say the stars aligned for many visiting artists and possibly for you too! In the hallway in the upper level, a whimsical tribute with a Hollywood boulevard star walk of fame bears the names of country music’s biggest star Johnny Cash, Stompin’ Tom Connors, and dozens of indie and mainstream artists.
Once considered “a palace of splendor”, the renovated and restored theatre was in its original state elaborately decked out with Spanish lights and ornate décor. Today it is draped in period style draperies reminiscent of the Capitol’s early era in the late 1920s. Its state of the art facilities feature beautiful works of art and glamourous lights, helping you feel like a star in your own right.
The Centre provides educational a full range of programming. After seeing the line-up, I’m booking a ticket to probe Arlene Dickinson, renowned CBC “dragon” and one of Canada’s most successful communications entrepreneurs. Capitol Centre really is a remarkable place that brings to together people and the arts, and seeks to broaden our thinking. Remember it has an ability to bring to life one’s ambitions, this is the intriguing part of arts and culture, our minds are expanded, our creativity stimulated.
A Cultural Hub in the Beautiful City of North Bay
As such, it has become a cultural hub, popular gathering spot, and hot spot for events for the entire BIG Northeastern region. A visit to the Capitol makes for a positive experience, and I guarantee attending a performance and supporting the Centre will enrich your life.
The Capitol Centre is centrally located, easily accessible in the heart of downtown North Bay, and is only steps away from the beautiful waterfront. There is plenty of street parking and a parking garage if you need it. There are also a wide range of choices for restaurants within walking distance for before or after an event. For more ideas of things to do on your visit, check out Tourism North Bay.
As a not for profit organization, the Capitol Centre relies on contributions from sponsors, volunteers and supporters. Volunteers are integral to their operations and seems to be part of what makes this place feel so community-minded. Their goal is sustainability as well as continuing to offer diverse programming that is inviting and accessible to all ages.
I’d like to wrap up this mission with an applause to the volunteer members of the Board, and to Dee Adrian General Manager, Capitol Centre and her team for the professional and friendly welcome they showed to me. And to the Betty Speers, our very own “The Lady of the Arts” who has been vital in bringing the diverse arts organizations together and for keeping this Centre alive—in fact, it was she who purchased the building from the Famous Players back in 1985 for the Centre as we know it now.
As you can see, living in the North doesn’t mean you can’t experience big city culture. It also means that there is no need to travel for hours to take in top notch arts and entertainment. Check out the Capitol’s events listing to find out more and to see what’s coming up. Get out and support your local theatre!
150 Main Street East
North Bay, ON P1B 1A8
Phone: (705) 705-474-1944 or 1 (888) 834-4747
Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.