By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
Local politicians and stakeholders gathered outside the Centre des arts de la Scene Jean-Besré on Friday to celebrate the construction of the long-awaited youth theatre for the city. A symbolic groundbreaking ceremony held last Friday marked the start of the project, a few weeks after the financial package was finalized.
“Today we are starting a project that originated in the 1980s,” proclaimed Sherbrooke Mayor Évelyne Beaudin. Bringing the project to fruition was not easy, Beaudin explained, “Several determined people have passed the torch over the decades,” she continued.
According to a press release about the groundbreaking, the infrastructure will “consolidate a true cultural hub in downtown Sherbrooke” and bring together creation, production and presentation activities in the performing arts in a single location.
“We are leaving our children a place that will stimulate them, make them think, and make them dream,” said Beaduin of the impact the facility will have on the region. “We are leaving future generations a powerful development tool.”
Mathieu Lacombe, Minister of Culture and Communications, and Minister responsible for Youth attended the event. “In Quebec, there are innovative and creative cultural venues that promote the encounter between the living arts and young people. Our government is proud to support a project that is long overdue. A place that will give children and teenagers access to culture and specialize in dance and theatre,” Lacombe said.
Élisabeth Brière, Member of Parliament for Sherbrooke, called the moment a result of several years of effort by citizens and local elected officials. “I am very pleased that Canadian Heritage has doubled its investment…reaffirming that [the federal government] is there for our young people in the Eastern Townships and for Sherbrooke’s cultural Community.”
“The journey of this project is a concrete example of the impact of a political will made of vision for the community, determination and sincere commitment,” said Lilie Bergeron, Executive Director of Coté scène, a local organization promoting youth arts that will also helm the facility once finished. Bergeron said the project was more than 20 years in the making, getting teary-eyed talking about the long-building anticipation and future impact the facility will have. “We have dreamed for so long of this machinery swarming around us!” she said, referring to the construction that was already in the early stages.
The construction contract in the amount of $14,559,205 was awarded to Groupe Decarel Inc.
Per the press release, the department of Canadian Heritage is contributing $5,400,000 to the project, while the largest single contribution is from the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, for a total of $9,300,000. Responding to concerns about all the money being invested in Sherbrooke for this and other projects, such as the Grandes-Fourches reconstruction, from the provincial government, Beaudin pushed back that the city would not have to wait for other projects. “It’s not how it works,” she explained, referring to the grant process for capital projects.
The City itself has committed $6,090,000, and Coté scène $1,000,000. The total cost of the project, which includes professional fees and stage equipment, is estimated at $21,790,000.
The mayor thanked the Minister of Culture and Communications, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, as well as provincial and federal representatives, for their work in securing the funding for the project. She specifically cited the work of Bergeron and her team at Côté scène, “without whom this project would not exist.”
“I have come away from this experience filled with gratitude for the people who are involved in politics. Thank you for your tenacity, your perseverance and your sincerity in wanting to make things happen,” said Bergeron in turn.
Officials expect the building to be complete by the end of 2024.