BOSTON/HOLYOKE – The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA) Victory Theatre has been awarded $2 million in state support through the Capital Assets Bond Bill signed recently by Gov. Baker. Holyoke’s state senator Don Humason (R-Westfield), Senate Assistant Minority Leader, sponsored the amendment that earmarked the $2 million for the MIFA Victory Theatre project. The $2 million will be used toward renovating and reopening the historic Holyoke theater as a game changer for the performing arts and tourism in the Pioneer Valley and a force of consequence for economic development in Holyoke and the surrounding region.

The capital assets bill authorizes the issuance of up to $1.3 billion in bonds for the improvement of capital and general government operations. The iconic Victory Theatre was built for live stage performance in 1919 and closed in 1979. It is unique in size and type in the Pioneer Valley.

“We are thrilled to have the strong bipartisan support of our Western Massachusetts delegation,” said MIFA Executive Artistic Director Don Sanders. “Retrofitted with 21st-century theater technology, the restored landmark will fill a wide entertainment gap in the region presenting touring A-list Broadway productions, act as an engine for economic development, and offer opportunities for performing arts collaborations, educational enrichment and workforce development in theatre and entertainment technology.” 

“I believe in the economic and cultural impact the Victory Theatre can have on our region of the Commonwealth,” Humason said. “It has been a pleasure working with Don Sanders, Representative Aaron Vega, and the local and state officials from the area. We all play our part. I am pleased that the $2 million earmark I secured in the capital asset bond bill remained in the final version of the bill that Governor Baker signed.”

The Victory project has the support of the region’s mayors, colleges, local arts organizations, business and union leaders, and MGM Springfield, which anticipates co-marketing and co-presenting with the Victory Theatre. The project is expected to generate 200 construction jobs and an additional 80 jobs directly related to the theater’s operation as a regional performing arts center.

Rep. Vega (D-Holyoke) will request additional support for the Victory Theatre in the upcoming Economic Development Bond Bill submitted by Gov. Baker in March and being drafted by local chairman Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee. 

Representative Vega, who has supported the MIFA Victory Theatre project since he was a Holyoke City Councilor at-large added, “This is one more step to seeing this project come to fruition. The potential for this project to be an economic driver for Holyoke is real. A new Victory Theatre is a home run for local arts and tourism, economic development and would provide a gateway for all of New England to enjoy first-rate theater, music, dance, Broadway musicals and special entertainment events.”

“This state support will help us leverage the commitments we have received to date to return the vintage Victory to its former glory,” said Sanders.

The bond bill funds, when released, will complement the funds MIFA has raised so far toward the $35 million construction cost. These include: $4.4 million in state historic tax credits; $5.5 million in Federal Historic Preservation tax credits; a $1.2 million commitment from the City of Holyoke; and $3.7 million in additional state grants and private pledges, including a capital campaign highlighted by a $1.5 catalyst pledge from Donald and Michele D’Amour.

In a joint letter to the legislature, Pioneer Valley mayors expressed support for the Victory Theatre project as a mutual economic opportunity. “We all bring a piece of the puzzle to the table, and the Victory Theatre is a large and important piece as a regional asset for the performing arts and job creation in the creative economy,” they wrote. Led by Holyoke Mayor Morse signatories to the letter are mayors Sarno of Springfield, Sapelli of Agawam, Kos of Chicopee, La Chapelle of Easthampton, Narkewicz of Northampton, Reichelt of West Springfield, B. Sullivan of Westfield, and South Hadley town administrator M. Sullivan.