Stratford Festival gets $20M from Trudeau government for new Tom Patterson Theatre

Stratford Festival has two-thirds of the money it needs to build its new Tom Patterson Theatre after Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly announced a $20 million contribution by the federal government.

City of Stratford still needs to declare land surplus before new theatre can be built

In a tweet Monday, Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly wrote: 'It’s a pleasure to be here today on behalf of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable @SohiAmarjeet, to announce that our Government will be contributing $20 million to the Stratford Festival Tom Patterson Theatre Centre project.' (@melaniejoly/Twitter)

Stratford Festival has two-thirds of the money it needs to build its new Tom Patterson Theatre after Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly announced a $20 million contribution by the federal government on Monday.

"Cultural and recreational infrastructure make our communities places where families can play, where neighbours can meet, and where Canadians can celebrate the many cultures that make up our country," Joly said in a news release. 

The festival unveiled its plan to build a completely new Tom Patterson Theatre, on the grounds of the existing building, back in August.
The new theatre design is by Siamak Hariri, an architect with Toronto-based firm Hariri Pontarini. It will feature glass pane windows that are 75 centimetres wide and six and a third meters high with thin, wide bronze mullions between them. (Stratford Festival)

It will cost $68 million with federal and provincial governments contributing $20 million each. The rest will come from fundraising efforts by the festival itself. 

From curling rink to world-class theatre

The new building will be designed by award-winning architect Simak Hariri; a bespoke structure that expands upon the current Tom Patterson, which is a retrofitted curling rink that the theatre transformed into a elongated thrust stage for the summer months.

"It's a really exciting new venue," Gaffney told CBC News. "It's a little bit bigger than our current Tom Patterson but it still preserves the same wonderful intimacy that people love about that theatre."

But a bigger theatre is just the beginning, Gaffney said. It will have space for the festival's Forum events, which are often panels or workshops tied to themes in Stratford Festival's season, and new multimedia opportunities, Gaffney said. 

This artistic rendering of what will be the inside of the proposed new Tom Patterson Theatre shows how the building mirrors the curvature of the Avon River, which runs along the property's edge. (Submitted by: Stratford Festival)

"It will have a expanded digital capacity so that we'll be able to stream a lot of our Forum events and share more of our work ... and ultimately bring more people to Stratford."

Municipality must declare lands surplus

Despite the federal and provincial funding commitments, the new Tom Patterson Theatre won't be built until it gets approval from the City of Stratford — which owns the land and the Kiwanis Community Centre that houses the existing Tom Patterson Theatre.

City council is considering declaring the lands surplus. To do that, it needs to hold a public meeting, which will happen Jan. 15. 

Meanwhile, the total cost estimate for the project has grown by $8 million since it was first announced in August.

Gaffney told CBC News the estimate rose from $60 million to $68 million due to a number of factors, including the addition of a "healthy" contingency fund and escalating costs. 

Also included in the new price tag is an estimate for building "transitional spaces" for groups — including the local seniors' association and lawn bowling club —  during any downtime between when Stratford Festival begins demolition of the Kiwanis Community Centre and a new permanent home for those groups is found.
Over the years, the Tom Patterson Theatre has served as a curling rink, badminton court, community centre and a playhouse. (Stratford Festival)

About the Author

Jackie Sharkey

Associate Producer, CBC KW

Jackie Sharkey has worked all over the country with the CBC over the past decade, including Kelowna, Quebec City and Rankin Inlet, NU. She frequently reports on the arts and is particularly interested in stories where consumer and environmental issues intersect.

With files from the CBC's Peggy Lam


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