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Construction of Fredericton’s future performing arts centre begins after dramatic 12-year journey

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Twelve years ago the City of Fredericton was warned its performing arts centre – the Playhouse – was nearing its end-of-life. The price tag to renovate the now-60-year-old building was high, and the idea of a brand new centre was pitched.

The city signed on, designs were completed, but securing the money was dramatic tale with many stages.

“This project almost died more times than you can possibly imagine,” said Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers. “We almost lost it. And then it became lesser than what it was supposed to be. And then it was, 'It's never going to happen because we're like, now broke and there's a pandemic and inflation.’”

Design of the new arts centre in Fredericton. (Source: City of Fredericton)

On Monday, shovels were in the ground and construction officially began on an $81.7 million performing arts centre on the corner of Regent and King streets in downtown Fredericton, to be completed in late 2026.

There are concerns inflation may harm the budget, but Playhouse executive director Tim Yerxa says they have prepared for cost overruns.

“Our last costing of $81.7 million is the total project cost that we've had so far. So, I mean, will things go up? Will things change? Yes, through individual tenders. Some will come in high, some will come in low and we know we'll have a lot more information on the costing once those tenders go out in the spring,” he said.

Design of the new arts centre in Fredericton. (Source: City of Fredericton) More than half – almost $47 million – is coming from the provincial and federal governments.

The city is contributing $22.6 million and $10 million will be raised through a fundraising campaign, which is already halfway there.

Indigenous leaders were consulted and have approved the location and design. Monday’s announcement began with a ceremony, where participants blessed the land with tobacco and cedar.

Design of the new arts centre in Fredericton. (Source: City of Fredericton) Singer, songwriter and composer Jeremy Dutcher grew up on the Playhouse stage.

Now a Polaris Music Prize and Juno winner, Dutcher hopes this marks the next chapter for future performers to begin their careers.

“That space is kind of everything to me,” they said. “I'll be curious how that's going to live again and what the next chapter for that space is, too.”

The new centre will have two venues. The larger, main hall will accommodate 850 seats. The second will be able to host 300 people.

The original Playhouse building will be turned over to the city once the new one opens.

Rogers says there are no plans on what might happen to that building, but a motion has been passed to ensure it’s a “substantive development,” because of the location and value of the land, which sits next to the city’s convention centre, and across from the provincial legislature.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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