The Winspear Project is creating an open and accessible centre in Edmonton, and is the future of music in our community.
The Francis Winspear Centre for Music is seeking to fulfill the City’s original requirements for the land and serve long-term needs identified by the community. What was a surface parking lot is being transformed into a 41,000 square feet of mixed-use new cultural space that integrates immersive art experiences with practical commercial uses.
The Winspear Project will feature a 550-seat flex-use midsize acoustic hall, community gathering space, additional studio and classroom spaces, underground parking, and more. This project will become the home base for the community programming offered through the Tommy Banks Centre , and will allow increased capacity for programming, outreach, and connections with community partners.
About Winspear Project
The Winspear Centre was always intended to be more than a concert hall. Dr. Francis Winspear’s original vision for the facility was that of a true centre for music – open to all members of the community to explore and participate in music in all of its forms. Budget constraints during the original build meant that the full vision of the Winspear Centre wasn’t completed, and the building size was reduced. An agreement was made with the City of Edmonton during the building phase confirming that the Winspear Centre would be completed in the future. In the meantime, the undeveloped space would become a surface parking lot..
The Winspear Project is reimagining the public spaces of the Winspear Centre to upgrade the current facility and add a significant expansion to the former adjoining surface parking lot. The Winspear Project will ensure that our facility not only maintains its functionality, but is also adapted to meet the needs of our community.
The three key components of the project are:
1. The Music Box: a 550 seat (approx.) flexible public performance venue that will accommodate small scale music performance, flat floor events, and symphonic orchestra rehearsals at an experiential quality level aligned with the existing concert hall.
2. Creation of Multi-Purpose Spaces: a series of learning studios and multi-purpose studios for rehearsal/teaching to support the educational and community outreach programs of the Winspear.
3. Public Animation: an innovative concept to make the facility more effective as a home and creative hub for the Edmonton and Northern Alberta community.
The Music Box
The Winspear Centre’s new performance space, the Music Box, will serve as the jewel of the expansion. This intimate and unique venue is perfect for a wide variety of events, including various genres of performance, conferences, rehearsals, galas, and meetings. The Music Box will have exceptional acoustics, and is designed by the same acousticians who built the main chamber at the Winspear Centre. The space will also boast the latest technologies in digital projection, lighting, and audio resources. This new performance space will offer the high standards that our patrons, musicians, and guest performers have come to expect from the Winspear Centre.
This 550-seat performance space will have state-of-the-art flexible seating, not currently available in the city. Within minutes, the hall seating will transform from flat floor to raked to cabaret- style seating. This flexibility makes the Music Box an ideal venue for smaller ensembles and community members to rent for their events. Nothing like the Music Box exists in our region. The Winspear Centre will set a precedent for music venues and encourage the creation of spaces that suit smaller musical performances.
Creation of Multi-Purpose Spaces
Through the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity, programming at the Winspear Centre is growing rapidly. We have now reached capacity in the number of programs that we can offer within our current spaces, while allowing for third-party client rentals and artist and community partner use. All spaces within the facility have been assessed to determine their current functions and usage rates. Some under-used areas will be converted into functional, multi-use spaces for programs and events.
Additional studios and classrooms will enable the Winspear Centre to double its capacity for single-day field trips, expand new and existing programming, and offer more educational opportunities to larger groups of people. This means that more people will have the opportunity to make and share music in our community. Engaging the community to explore the power of music is extremely important to us. We are excited to be able to invite more participants to discover their love for music.
These multi-purpose spaces will serve as new and exciting places of connection by welcoming participants of all art forms, including visual arts, dance, and drama. Not only that: these spaces can function as community gathering spaces, bookable meeting spaces, or spaces for studying, reading, practicing, or quiet reflection. The flexibility of these spaces will enhance the building’s creative energy and stimulate cross-disciplinary learning and discovery.
At this time, the Winspear Centre is predominantly open to the public during scheduled concerts and events. During non-event times, the front doors are locked and the main lobby, which is visible from the street, is often empty of activity. We have been creative in finding ways to open the facility to the public, with free one-hour Overture tours, open dress rehearsals, and various activities over Culture Days weekend. However, to become a true centre for music, we must eliminate barriers to access. We can increase public access by providing spaces for spontaneous musical exploration and community gatherings that do not require a ticket for participation.
Following the Winspear Project, the new facility will be open and accessible every day, welcoming everyone in the community to engage with and enjoy the power of music. Rentable multi-purpose spaces, an outdoor plaza, daytime programming, and interactive Discovery Zones strategically placed throughout the building will encourage the public to spend time at the Winspear Centre, and be inspired to learn about and engage with music during every visit.
Tommy Banks believed in the power of music to bind community together. We wholeheartedly embrace his vision … and hope you will too!
Frequently Asked Questions
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The Winspear Project fulfills the City's original requirements for the land and serves long-term needs identified by the community. The parking lot on 97 Street between 102 and 102a Avenues is transforming into 41,000 square feet of mixed-use new cultural space that integrates immersive art experiences with practical commercial uses.
The Winspear Project features a 550-seat flex-use midsize acoustic hall, community gathering space, additional studio and classroom spaces, underground parking, and more. This project will become the home base for the community programming offered through the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity and allow increased capacity for partnership with community and arts organizations.
These partnerships and connections with the community finally fulfill Dr. Francis Winspear’s dream when he envisioned this hall as Edmonton’s true centre for music back in 1997.
FRANCIS G. WINSPEAR (1903-1997)
Francis Winspear was born in Birmingham, England, and immigrated to Canada with his family when he was eight years old. The Winspears settled in a hamlet not far from Calgary, Alberta. Dr. Winspear graduated from the University of Alberta as an accountant in the 1920s. By the 1940s, he had the most prominent accounting firm in Edmonton. His generosity to his adopted home was established early on. He helped to found both the Edmonton Symphony Society and Edmonton Opera and made contributions to the University of Alberta's Faculty of Business.
The Winspear Foundation has donated millions to worthwhile community causes. His six-million-dollar donation to the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation was the largest single private donation ever made to a performing arts facility in Canada.
More than the staggering donation merits Dr. Winspear's name on Edmonton's jewel of a concert hall. The thousands of lives he touched and enriched form a testament to a man who left his community a better place.
Tommy Banks believed that music has the power to change lives. We at the ESO and Winspear Centre believe this too. That is why we launched the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity in 2012. We are determined to build upon our reputation for innovative programs and offer broader and deeper access to musical discovery for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Through a range of immersive programs, the Banks Centre encourages people from all walks of life to discover the joy of musical exploration, creation, and connection. From underserved youth studying orchestral music in our YONA-Sistema program, to adults with Parkinson's disease being mentored through a "jam session" by ESO musicians, to parents and infants immersing themselves in music through Music Box Babies, all members of Edmonton's diverse public can immerse themselves in music – as spectators, as apprentices, as creators.
The Banks Centre delivers revolutionary programs that act as catalysts for musical discovery and exploration, so that current and future generations can experience the transformative power of music.
Click here for information about the programs offered by the Tommy Banks Centre.
TOMMY BANKS (1936-2018)
There is a much-used cliché: "this guy's done it all." But when it comes to Edmonton's music scene, that describes Tommy Banks. Pianist, big band leader, arranger, conductor, TV host, community advocate, and respected member of the Canadian Senate, Mr. Banks' tireless efforts on behalf of his community and his fellow musicians made him a fierce and devoted champion for these causes.
In 1980, Tommy Banks declared that Edmonton was just "too big and too good a city not to have a concert hall." At around the same time, another ad hoc committee began to study the feasibility of building and sustaining a concert hall. In August 1983, Tommy Banks' group and this new committee joined forces and formalized themselves under the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation name. Their vision – the Francis Winspear Centre for Music – opened in September 1997.
Tommy represented Alberta in the Canadian Senate from 2000 to 2011 and advocated for the arts. He was a founding chairman of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts and was made an officer of the Order of Canada.
Through it all, Tommy Banks never lost an opportunity to stress the value and importance of arts education, particularly for young people. He was an ongoing supporter of the Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta-Sistema (YONA-Sistema) program. He was an obvious choice for the name of the Edmonton Symphony and Winspear Centre's educational program umbrella – The Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity.
The purpose of the Winspear Project is three-fold:
1. The Winspear Project fulfills the City of Edmonton's land lease requirement to develop the parking lot that remained after the original Winspear Centre was built.
2. The added area from the expansion will serve as the home base for the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity.
3. The Winspear Project fulfills Dr. Francis Winspear's dream of this hall being a true centre for music that will be open for the public to engage and discover music.
This expansion will serve Edmontonians and community members of all ages and backgrounds. New spaces will be available and accessible for community rentals, and the flexibility of these spaces will allow for a variety of uses and audiences.
The Music Box, the multifunctional performance space, will provide opportunities for community-based organizations like music groups, choirs, and small ensembles to perform in a superior acoustic space.
Our current music programs have outgrown the ability to accommodate the demand. To accommodate increased interest and offer more programming, we require additional space. Also, the building will be open to the public daily. The new facility will have rentable multi-purpose spaces, an outdoor plaza, daytime programming, and interactive Discovery Zones strategically placed throughout the building. This will encourage the public to spend time at the Winspear Centre and be inspired to learn about and engage with music in opportunities that do not require a ticket for full participation.
The programming offered by the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity and the demonstrated needs of the community have prompted us to develop additional space to support the demand. We are confident that our current design will be able to accommodate and fulfill our needs and those of the community.
Yes, there will be underground parking available.
Yes. The Winspear Project campaign includes a refresh of the existing Winspear Centre, which may include:
- Replacement of the concert hall seats.
- Updated carpets and furniture in the lobby spaces.
- Refreshed bathrooms.
- New lobby access to passageways connecting the front of the building to the addition in the back.
- Reconfigured administration offices.
The Concert Hall and selected programs and activities will continue as usual, pending public health restrictions. Some spaces and programs will be limited for short periods of time during construction. We have proactively budgeted to account for any programming changes during construction.
Our goal is to open in the spring of 2023.
Please contact Kyra Droog, Writer & Interim Capital Campaign Coordinator, for more information, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Government of Alberta is focused on prioritizing infrastructure projects that invest in Albertans. By supporting projects like the Winspear Centre expansion, we help people get jobs. We also boost opportunities for local businesses as more workers and visitors come to the area, and we increase access to cultural and learning experiences that help promote vibrant communities.”
Prasad Panda, Minister of Infrastructure
“The Francis Winspear Centre provides unforgettable musical performances, and this funding will make it an even bigger part of the Capital Region’s performing arts community. The expansion will bring the joy of music to more people and will create new beautiful spaces for children and other groups to thrive in, ensuring the Winspear remains the heart of downtown Edmonton for years to come.”
Leela Sharon Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
“I am proud to be part of a government that is committed to building a world-class capital city that all Albertans can be proud of. This investment in the Winspear Centre will help bolster the development of downtown Edmonton and create a better overall quality of life for Edmonton residents.”
Kaycee Madu, MLA for Edmonton-South West
“The possibilities could be limitless!”
Martin Bragg, Alberta Ballet Executive Director
“Having access to a central state-of-the-art performance space will fill the void in Edmonton's music venues scene. I look forward to continuing to work with the Winspear, and creating more programming in the "Music Box".”
Terry Wickham, Edmonton Folk Music Festival Producer
“The new Winspear Centre venue would contain a complete production capacity to accommodate our artists' needs as well as acoustic design to present music at the level of excellence we require.”
Kent Sangster, Edmonton International Jazz Festival Executive & Artistic Director