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Winspear expansion work set to resume with $12.8M top-up from province

Work on the expansion of Edmonton’s Francis Winspear Centre for Music is about to resume with a $12.8-million commitment from the provincial government.

“Decades ago, Dr. Francis Winspear imagined the Winspear as a true cultural hub where everyone could gather to play, enjoy and share music. But budget constraints at that time reduced the size of the building,” recalled the facility’s president and CEO, Annemarie Petrov, at a news conference on Tuesday.

“This expansion completes the dream that Dr. Francis Winspear had.”

Work on the performance centre’s expansion began in 2019 but the COVID-19 pandemic both delayed construction work and increased costs.

What was once a $65-million undertaking has grown to $115 million. A remaining $28 million needs to be fundraised.

The extra funding from the Alberta government will be doled out over three years starting in 2025 so long as Budget 2024 is passed.

“We know how important a thriving arts and culture community is to building vibrant communities,” Tanya Fir, Alberta’s minister of arts, culture and the status of women, said.

“There’ll be something for everyone, young and old. It’s open, it’s accessible and it’s not only great for locals in Edmonton, but it’s going to be a tourist draw as well.”

The expansion will add more than 4,600 square metres to the Winspear, including a 550-seat performance hall called the Music Box, classrooms and multi-functional spaces for music programming and community rentals, indoor and outdoor community spaces, and upgrades to the existing concert hall.

“The challenge we’ve always found is we’re not open to the public during the day. And we know that there’s so much interest and desire to learn music and that’s why this is so important,” Petrov said.

For the founder of 5 Artists 1 Love – an event celebrating Edmonton’s Black artists during Black History Month in February, which has used the Winspear for the musical portion of its event for the last three years – the physical expansion also represents an expansion of access and opportunity.

“We get to show them excellence in a space like this, excellence being created by people that look like them. And that is important. It is essential because inclusion begins with representation,” Darren Jordan told reporters.

As for the 2022 timeline, Petrov is now aiming for a grand opening in 2025 – but more likely 2026.

The government expects the Winspear to bring in $4.5 million in tourism revenue in its first year of opening, in addition to 240 construction jobs and more than 110 post-construction jobs.

Alberta contributed $13 million to the project in 2019.

The Winspear, home of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, opened in 1997.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski and Marek Tkach 

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