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, childcare centre, underground and surface-level parking, multifunctional spaces, and commercial space. This project will become the home base for the community programming offered through the Tommy Banks Centre and allow increased capacity for programming, outreach, and partnership with sister arts organizations and business partners.
The Winspear Centre has been the home of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) since its doors were opened in 1997. At the time of construction, the footprint of the Winspear was reduced in order to create the superb acoustical chamber for the ESO to perform in, leaving a parking lot at the back of the building. The City of Edmonton agreed to lease this lot to the Winspear with a commitment to build on the space in the future. In 2009, at the behest of the City, planning began for the expansion and we are now ready to proceed.
In addition to being the home of our wonderful ESO, the Winspear is the home of the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity. From its beginning in 2013 and with over 20 permanent programs, the Tommy Banks Centre, has encouraged people from all walks of life to discover the joy of musical exploration, creation, and connection.
The Winspear Project is multi-faceted and includes a 41,000 square foot expansion, refresh and renewal of existing spaces, commercial space housing a YMCA daycare, and a new two-level parkade. As part of our funding strategy, we are engaging the public in a community capital campaign of $17M.
The expansion will add additional multi-purpose spaces, community gathering spaces including a café and outdoor terrace, interactive musical discovery zones, and a smaller 550-seat performance hall called the Music Box. Additionally, the newly expanded Winspear will be open to the public throughout the day to welcome guests to attend events, enjoy the community and provide access to musical discovery. This will make the Winspear truly an active centre for music, open and accessible every day.
The Music Box will be the jewel of the addition. This intimate and unforgettable venue is perfect for a wide variety of events, including diverse performances, conferences, rehearsals, galas, and meetings. It will have state-of-the-art digital projection, lighting and audio resources, and a hydraulic seating system providing flexibility not currently available in the city. The floor will have the ability to transform from flat floor to raked to cabaret-style seating in minutes. This flexibility makes this space an ideal venue for smaller ensembles and community members to rent for their events.
The additional flex-use spaces will allow the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity to expand and grow. Currently, our ability to accept new participants and develop additional programming is at capacity. The Winspear Project expansion will give us the ability to double our current registrations, not only through additional spaces in current programs but also creating an opportunity to develop and explore new collaborations and offerings. It allows us to further expand our ability to reach out and invite the community to explore music.
The YMCA daycare will provide 64 childcare spaces that will fulfill an identified need for not-for-profit childcare in the downtown core. The Winspear will become its backyard, with the children having playtime on the outdoor terrace, exploring interactive musical discovery zones, and learning through music-centered programming.
The Winspear Project is an opportunity for Edmonton to continue the legacy of Dr. Francis Winspear and to create a space for the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity, thus creating more opportunities for Edmontonians of all ages, cultures, economic, and educational backgrounds to connect with each other through music.
Tommy Banks believed in the power of music to bind the community together. We wholeheartedly embrace his vision… and hope you will too!
Winspear Project Funding
The Winspear Project includes funding from all levels of government plus a community campaign.
- Community Capital Campaign - $17M
- Combined Government Contribution - $48.6M
Total Winspear Project Funding: $65.6M
As part of our funding strategy, we will engage the public in a community capital campaign that will launch Spring, 2020.
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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. What is now a surface parking lot on 97 Street between 102 and 102a Avenues will be transformed into 41,000 square feet of mixed-use new cultural space that integrates immersive arts experiences with practical commercial uses.
The Winspear Project features a 550-seat flex-use midsize acoustic hall, childcare centre, an outdoor terrace adjacent to a small café, an underground and at grade parkade and will see existing areas transformed into multifunctional spaces. 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, settling in a hamlet not far from Calgary, Alberta. He graduated from the University of Alberta as an accountant in the 1920s, and by the 1940s, had the biggest 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 as well to the U of A's Faculty of Business.
The Winspear Foundation has donated millions to worthwhile community causes, and 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. The widowed Dr. Winspear met Harriet Snowball in 1960, and in 1981 they married. Harriet recalls a man who, once he had his mind set on something, could not be deterred.
It is more than the staggering six million dollars that merits Dr. Winspear's name on Edmonton's jewel of a concert hall. The thousands of lives he touched and enriched, in dozens of charities, causes and foundations he was a part of, form a testament to a man who truly accomplished what is so often dreamed of – to leave the community a better place for having been a part of it.
Tommy Banks believed that music has the power to change lives. We at the ESO and Winspear Centre believe this too. That’s why we launched the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity in 2013, building upon our reputation for innovative programs to 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 have the opportunity to 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.
TOMMY BANKS (1936-2018)
There’s a much-used cliché: “this guy’s done it all.” But when it comes to Edmonton’s music scene, that absolutely 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 both his community and his fellow musicians – and that wonderful space where those two intersected – made him a fierce and devoted champion for causes that meant so much to him.
He produced five internationally-syndicated television specials featuring the ESO; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Symphony with an all-star cast headed by Tim Conway; Tom Jones In Concert; Engelbert Humperdinck In Concert; Lighthouse with the ESO; and Procol Harum with the ESO. Tommy conducted the world premiere by the ESO of Rod McKuen’s Ballad of Distances on the Warner Brothers LP Back to Carnegie Hall, and served as conductor or music supervisor for 48 ITV In-Concert TV specials syndicated in 78 countries of the world, and featuring stars from Tony Bennett to Dione Warwick, accompanied either by our orchestra or by his big band augmented by the strings and woodwinds of the ESO. In addition, he handled musical direction for Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and for visits by such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul. Banks was also the music director for Expo 86 in Vancouver.
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 was struck to study the feasibility of both 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, with David Norwood as its president. Their vision – the Francis Winspear Centre for Music – opened in September 1997.
Representing Alberta in the Canadian Senate from 2000 to 2011, Tommy did far more than advocate for the arts. He served on several committees, as well as a panel that advised the government during the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. 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, and the value it has in the lives of everyone – particularly young people. He was an ongoing supporter of the Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta-Sistema (YONA-Sistema) program, and was an obvious choice for the name of the Edmonton Symphony/Winspear Centre’s vision of making the Winspear Centre a place for everyone to learn about and experience music – The Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity.
Upon completion the Winspear will be open to the public on a regular basis, expanding access and further reinforcing the Winspear as Edmonton’s true centre for music. As such, this project includes additional options for community group rentals, increased access to participatory musical experiences for Edmontonians of all ages, and development of much-needed space for childcare in the downtown core.
This expansion is meant to serve Edmontonians of all ages and backgrounds. New spaces will be available and accessible to the public for rental and the flexibility of these spaces will allow for a variety of uses and audiences.
The multi-functional performance space, currently known as the “Music Box,” 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. In order to accommodate increased interest or offer more programming, we require additional space.
While this new space will be referred to as the “Music Box” during construction, no plans have been finalized for a permanent name.
The programming offered by the Tommy Banks Centre for Musical Creativity and the demonstrated need 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.
This project was initiated due to the fact that our initial commitment with the City included an obligation to someday develop our parking lot area into programmable space. This expansion will fulfill that obligation.
The number of available parking spaces will increase by 30-40 spaces in a parkade comprising one indoor heated parking level below ground and one level at grade.
We have received commitments from municipal, provincial and federal governments and will launch a community driven campaign in Spring of 2020.
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, and reconfigured administration offices.
The Concert Hall and selected programs and activities will continue as usual, however, 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 by 2022 - the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Winspear Centre.
Please contact Lana Walsh, Capital Campaign Manager, for more information, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (780) 401-2568.
“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 BalletExecutive 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