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Victory Theatre Inc. secures $50,000 grant for theater restoration project

By Paula Canning

Staff Writer

HOLYOKE Victory Theatre Inc., the non-profit group formed to support the restoration and renovation of the 86-year-old Victory Theatre, are looking towards their plans with even more optimism, now that the group has secured a $50,000 grant from the state Office of Tourism to fund the second phase of the project.

"It is wonderful news for the Victory Theatre," said Donald Sanders, president of the theater group and executive director of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA).

The theatre, which opened in 1919 during the time of silent motion pictures, switched to an all-movies format in 1931 before closing in 1979.

According to Sanders, the group intends to re-open the theatre to host both live theater productions and film showings.

Victory Theatre Inc. was presented the check during a press conference in front of the Victory Theater last Tuesday by Senator Michael Knapik, (R-Westfield), and State Representative Michael Kane, (D-Holyoke) who Sanders said have been instrumental in helping the group to obtain the funding.

"The efforts were really spearheaded by Knapik and Kane," Sanders said.

He said that approval for the grant "shows that the state recognizes the importance of cultural tourism to the economic development of an area."

Sanders said the grant will fund phase two of the project, which is the completion of a case study to determine the final costs to completely renovate and equip the theater.

"It's a very important phase because it's the creation of the final documents that show how much every light fixture and every single paper clip will cost to complete the project," he said. "It's really the final information that is needed to kick off the capital campaign."

Phase one included the acquisition of the building, which occurred in December of 2004 when the theater group signed a three-year, $1-a-year lease with the city to acquire the building.

Total estimated costs to renovate the theater are currently pegged at $10 million.

According to Sanders, the group has managed to raise an estimated $87,000.

Sanders is optimistic that the capital campaign that he is currently planning will be successful, especially since he has many "key people" on board to assist the group.

This includes Margaret Wood, who is responsible for rejuvenating the New York City Center.

"She is a wonderful professional in her field," Sanders said. "We couldn't have better guidance."

According to Sanders, Robert Brannigan, a nationally known expert on Broadway theatres, will be consulting on the technical equipment of the theater.

In addition, Sanders said that the group is currently interviewing some "very promising candidates," for the position of strategic fund-raising consultant.

Sanders said that he is hoping to officially launch the capital campaign by the end of December.

He said the group will soon be operating their campaign efforts out of an office on 56 Suffolk Street that overlooks the theater.

To make a tax deductible donation to Victory Theatre Inc, please call (413) 584-4425.