Victory Theatre Renovation Assessed by Owners, Holyoke Mayor

The long-delayed renovation of the Vaudeville-era Victory Theatre in Holyoke, is likely to be delayed further.

The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA) bought the Victory from the city in 2009 for just $1,500. It planned to complete renovations by December 2012. But MIFA has struggled to secure the $28 million it estimates is needed to begin renovations, according to artistic director, Donald Sanders.

“We’re at about $20 million if everything comes in as expected,” says Sanders.

Most of those funds are in state tax credits, and just $100,000 in a state grant secured last November. Holyoke included a reverter clause when it sold the Victory, meaning the city could take back the theater if no significant progress was made. Mayor Alex Morse says the two previous mayors extended the reverter for eighteen months each, but it expires in June. Morse says he supports the project and MIFA, but wants to see that it could be worthy of city and state investments before making a decision on the reverter.

“This project doesn’t have the legs to happen on its own unless MIFA or someone in the private sector has $30 million to pour into it,” Morse says. “But at this point, given that MIFA is relying only on money from a state grant, I’m not convinced that they have the financial capacity to execute the project.”

The city council voted for an extension last month, though Morse says that has no bearing on his decision. Sanders says a delay of this kind for a major arts initiative is not uncommon.

“All these kinds of projects, very few, including people’s kitchens or porches or whatever, come in on time.”

Sanders says he thinks MIFA could secure funding, complete renovations, and open the theatre in three years.