Liberty Entertainment Group has been named as the new permanent manager for Casa Loma.
The organization best known as operators of Exhibition Place’s Liberty Grand entertainment complex was endorsed by the five-member board of temporary caretaker Casa Loma Corp. and received a unanimous vote of approval Oct. 30 by the city’s executive committee.
The new operator is in place for the next 20 years.
The city-appointed Casa Loma Corp. took over from the Kiwanis Club in 2011, and was charged with finding a new manager for the castle. The Kiwanis Club had managed it since 1937.
While the proposed lease agreement is being kept under wraps until it comes before city council in mid-November, Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc said he is “positive” about the proposal, noting that Liberty was chosen because of the company’s heritage plans for the castle, and because it provided the best financial deal for the city.
According to the board’s letter, the agreement includes $7.4 million to continue the castle’s restoration, which Mihevc said will include upgrading the kitchens and installing air conditioning.
He also praised Liberty’s tourism and event promotion plans, which include a fine dining facility.
“You cannot beat the vista on the back patio of Casa Loma that overlooks the city,” Mihevc said. “I think Liberty has seen it, and I think they’ll be excellent city partners.”
Trelawny Howell, great-grandniece of original owner Sir Henry Pellatt, said she is “delighted” a new operator has been named. She has suggested Liberty in the past, she said.
Howell advocated for termination of the Kiwanis agreement for more than a decade. She urged city officials to use a public application process when choosing a new company to take its place.
“I’m happy that the Liberty Group has won it,” she said. “It would obviously require someone of their calibre to take this on.”
She was less enamoured with the 20-year lease, the type of agreement that she said allowed Kiwanis to run the castle for 74 years despite accusations of mismanagement.
“I know in this case Liberty Grand is going to be putting some $7 million into this over the next five years, so from that point of view they may need some protection,” she said. “But it needs to be re-evaluated every year and held accountable.”
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