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Photos by Don Treeger / The Republican 3/8/2023

This muralist lifted Holyoke’s spirits during World War II; the fight today is to bring his works back to life, By Dennis Hohenberger | Special to The Republican, Updated: Mar. 10, 2023, 11:31 a.m. | Published: Mar. 08, 2023, 6:41 p.m., Photo Gallery

By Don Treeger |

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Donald Sanders, with flashlight, executive artistic director of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, leads area legislators on a tour of the old Victory Theater in Holyoke that is underoing restoration. . (Don Treeger / The Republican)

Holyoke Victory Theater project gets support from Western Massachusetts legislators

Updated: Jan. 23, 2023, 7:28 p.m. | Published: Jan. 23, 2023, 7:21 p.m.\

By Dennis Hohenberger | Special to The Republican

HOLYOKE – “This isn’t a Holyoke project. It’s a Western Massachusetts regional project,” Mayor Joshua A. Garcia told a delegation of state legislators who visited the long-shuttered Victory Theater today. “I’m hoping we can be strategic and specific and focused as possible to figure out how to close (the funding) gap.” READ MORE

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Victory Theater tour brings hope for Holyoke arts, economic development

WWLP22 News, January 23, 2023

Mayor Joshua Garcia of Holyoke explored one of his city’s most pleasant possibilities on Monday.


Holyoke pledges $2 million to Victory Theatre toward ‘epic’ return


Jan. 3, 2023 | Trent Levakis

State Sen. John Velis talks about collaboration for the Victory Theatre project alongside State Rep. Patricia Duffy (center left), Mayor Joshua Garcia (left) and Project Manager Susan Palmer (right). Reminder Publishing photo by Trent Levakis

HOLYOKE – Efforts to renovate and reopen Holyoke’s Victory Theatre gained a key bonus from Mayor Joshua Garcia and the city of Holyoke as the mayor announced an additional $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding will go toward the project. READ MORE

Year In Review

By George O'Brien, December 23, 2022

Victory Theatre Project Gains Momentum

Holyoke officials and groups involved with the arts have been engaged in efforts to try to revitalize the historic Victory Theatre for more than 40 years now. And while this initiative still has a ways to go before it can cross the goal line, some significant progress was seen this past year. READ MORE


Holyoke pitching in $2M for Victory Theatre redevelopment

By Chad Cain, Managing Editor | Daily Hampshire Gazette

Published: 12/23/2022 2:37:41 PM

The Victory Theatre restoration project received a $2 million boost this week when Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia announced that the city would allocate $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act money. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

HOLYOKE — The ambitious, $61 million effort to reopen the Broadway-style Victory Theatre moved $2 million closer to becoming reality this week after the city made a significant commitment of American Rescue Plan Act money for the project in its downtown. READ MORE

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Holyoke using $2M for Victory Theatre project

by: Ashley Shook | WWLP-22News

Posted: Dec 22, 2022 / 03:00 PM EST | Updated: Dec 22, 2022 / 11:14 PM EST

A news conference was held in the Mayor’s Office at Holyoke City Hall Thursday with State Representative Pat Duffy, State Senator John Velis and the team from the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA) to share updates on the Victory Theatre restoration project.

The Suffolk Street 1,600-seat theatre dates back to the 1920s and has been closed since 1979.


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Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia pledges $2 million in federal COVID relief funding for Victory Theatre Project

Updated: Dec. 22, 2022, 9:19 p.m. | Published: Dec. 22, 2022, 6:32 p.m.

By Dennis Hohenberger | Special to The Republican

Donald Sanders, of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, and Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia announce $2 million in funding for the Victory Theatre project. Stefany Garcia joins them at the podium.

HOLYOKE — Mayor Joshua A. Garcia pledged $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid for the Victory Theatre restoration project, a renewed effort to reopen the 1,600-seat venue once considered a “crown jewel.” READ MORE

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December 22, 2022

Contact: Linda Matys O’Connell

Cell: 610-295-3125

Holyoke Mayor Pledges ARPA Funding

for Victory Theatre Project

“The return of the Victory Theatre will be epic”

HOLYOKE, MA – In another milestone of momentum for the effort to reopen the historic MIFA Victory Theatre in downtown Holyoke, Mayor Joshua A. Garcia announced his commitment of $2 million to the project through the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding process. Citing thoughts he said are “swirling around” the community campaign to reopen the theater – “crown jewel, cultural enrichment, community engagement, downtown revitalization, energy” – Garcia said, “The return of the Victory Theatre will be epic.”

The Victory Theatre is an iconic 1,600-seat Broadway-style theater in downtown Holyoke opened in 1920 and closed in 1979 as the fortunes of the formerly industrial city declined. Since acquiring the derelict building from the city of Holyoke in 2009, the non-profit Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA) has been leading the effort to preserve, expand and transform the historic theater as the fortunes of the city improve.

“MIFA is grateful to Mayor Garcia for having the vision to see how the Victory Theatre can be a transformative part of Holyoke’s recovery from the pandemic and vision for a bright future,” said Donald T. Sanders, MIFA’s executive artistic director. “Retrofitted with 21st- century technology and put back into service as a state-of-the-art regional performing arts center, the magnificent theater will be an engine for urban revitalization, economic development, and civic pride and health,” Sanders said. “MIFA is privileged to participate in bringing Mayor Garcia’s vision to fruition.”

According to Sanders, a veteran producer and director, the reopened Victory will re-establish Holyoke as a compelling center of arts and culture. “The MIFA Victory Theatre will draw more than 60,000 visitors a year, generate more than $6 million a year in direct and audience spending, create new jobs, foster new businesses, provide unique workforce development and career opportunities, increase educational enrichment, and drive meaningful community engagement,” he said.

The reopened Victory will enable Holyoke to become the cultural epicenter of Western Massachusetts for touring Broadway musicals, plays and special international events. With thousands of patrons from across the state, upstate New York and New England annually, Sanders noted, “The economic impact will ripple throughout the Pioneer Valley region.”

Mayor Garcia sounded a theme of urgency as well as support for the $61 million project, saying that now is the “ninth inning” and “eleventh hour.” Given the unprecedented availability of federal recovery funds, he observed: “The time to wrap this thing up is now. Because there’s not going to be a better time. Or another time. The campaign is at a critical stage. For the first time in a long time, we can see the finish line. But we have to cross it.”

Optimism prevails, according to Garcia and Sanders. "Let's make Victory ours," said Garcia.

In the last legislative session, the Victory project received a total of $1.05 million in ARPA and other funding through the efforts of state Rep. Patricia Duffy and state Sen. John Velis. A community capital campaign with a goal of $10 million is in gear and on target. The fundraising results on Giving Tuesday were three times the donation total in past years, and planning is underway for many other awareness and fundraising events. A growing number of influential community, business and government leaders are working on three active MIFA Victory Theatre teams. Outreach to the state legislature and the new gubernatorial administration is ramping up.

To assist in a rigorous push, MIFA retained national theater development expert Susan Palmer, CEO of the Palmer Westport Group, to undertake a feasibility planning study in 2022, to guide the robust ongoing capital campaign and to act as project management. As an outgrowth of that work, MIFA and Mayor Garcia are collaborating on enhanced community involvement in raising awareness and enthusiasm, engaging regional expertise, and encouraging the state to close the funding gap to begin construction.

MIFA and Mayor Garcia have convened three teams to fulfill those goals:

The Victory Theatre Community Fundraising Strike Team

Mayor Garcia convened a Victory Theatre Community Fundraising Strike Team composed of respected business and community leaders chaired by his wife, Stefany Garcia, Family Access and Engagement Coordinator for the Holyoke Public Schools. The team members have knowledge of the needs of Holyoke and the region and the capacity to aid the public in understanding of the expansive civic and economic benefits of a restored Victory Theatre. The team works with MIFA staff to provide visibility, create enthusiasm, fundraise and confirm the community’s desire to support the project.

Team chair Stefany Garcia is excited about the full range of benefits the Victory will bring to the community. As an educator she cites, in particular, the benefits for students that will flow from the theater’s educational programming. “Research shows that arts education and arts participation by students promotes the welfare of the next generation by supporting the development of critical learning skills, higher achievement outcomes, graduation rates and college attendance,” she said.

The Community Strike Team recently raised $11,750 dollars for the Victory on Giving Tuesday, unlocking a $10,000 matching contribution from WinnDevelopment and threw a sold-out Holiday Pub Crawl sponsored by the regional Latino Economic Development Corporation and Springfield businessman Cesar Ruiz. More events are in the planning stages.

Also serving on the community team is Elaine Vega, Vice President, Housing Management Resources, Inc., and a community activist. “I am so excited to join in carving a path for this historical gem, which aims for nothing less than cultivating true, deep community through the power of culture and the arts,” she said. “More than an extraordinary historical building, Victory Theatre will be a vibrant arts and culture center, bringing our communities together and celebrating our rich diversity.”

The Victory Theatre Entrepreneurial Strike Team

An operating Victory Theatre will provide a large base of customers eager to patronize nearby businesses. To fully leverage this opportunity, the Entrepreneurial Strike Team is developing an intentional, strategic effort to provide support and assistance to entrepreneurs, businesses and building owners who will benefit from the opportunities in the vicinity of the Victory Theatre, ensuring downtown redevelopment.

Chaired by Holyoke Director of Planning and Economic Development Aaron Vega, the team includes two former OPED directors with government and business leaders, including Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, executive director of business incubator EforAll Holyoke and Holyoke city councilor, and Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jordan Hart.

“I am excited to be part of the VTP Entrepreneurial Strike Team because I believe this project aligns with our focus on small businesses, restaurants and entertainment options in Holyoke,” said Vega. “I have personally supported and been invested in this project since being on the City Council when MIFA first acquired the building in 2009, to being state representative supporting a number of their grant allocations, and now as director of Office of Planning and Economic Development supporting this transformative project for our city and region.”

The Entrepreneurial Team is currently planning a January 23 gathering of business and building owners to discuss the project and share hopes and concerns for the Victory Theatre area. The goal is to build productive relationships and energize mutually beneficial, collaborative development.

Serving on this team is Jeff Hayden, Vice President, Business & Community Services at Holyoke Community College and a former Holyoke Director of Planning and Economic Development. “The Victory is a chance to reclaim Holyoke’s past while bolstering its future,” Hayden said. “By bringing more people downtown, stimulating more jobs, generating tax revenue, it will make a huge difference. I’ve always seen the restoration of the Victory Theatre as a key element of the continued redevelopment of Holyoke and downtown Holyoke, specifically. When I look at what we have – the Children’s Museum, the Merry-go-Round, the Volleyball Hall of Fame, Wistariahurst, and a world-class public library – the Victory will complement all those assets.”

Kathy Anderson is the third former director of Planning and Economic Development on the team. In addition to the economic benefits of the Victory, Anderson said, “It's a place to experience culture, and it will be for generations to come. There are all the things the arts bring to people’s lives – quality of life, expanding your horizons, being able to get dressed up in some finer clothing and to experience other people interested in those kinds of things. And the benefit goes beyond the people going to the performances to all the people involved behind the scenes.”

The Victory Theatre Building Committee

The Victory Theatre Building Committee is working with MIFA on the preconstruction and construction phases of the restoration of the Victory building and the addition of its annex. The committee helps monitor the work of architects, finance advisers, MIFA’s owner’s representative/construction manager, engineers and contractors, ensuring that the project meets the agreed upon budgets and goals. It will continue to monitor the maintenance of the operating facility.

The Building Committee is chaired by former Holyoke State Rep. Michael Kane, now with Eversource Community Relations. Kane is eager to see the project begin restoration and construction. Considering the long development period, he observed: “A long timeline for a significant project of this nature is not surprising. This is a heavy undertaking.”

Committee member Don Humason, former state senator, mayor of Westfield and current Chester town administrator, said “I met with Don Sanders and toured the Victory Theatre right after I was elected to the State Senate in 2013. You only have to see the Victory to fall in love with it, to see the potential not only for Holyoke but for the region in terms of culture, education and economic development. Talk about a multiplier effect.”

He added: “They don’t make theaters like that anymore with those classic bones, and the plans that have been drawn up for its renovation are extraordinary. It’s good to see ARPA money being spent on something real like this.”


Mayor Garcia’s Victory Theatre Community Strike Team

CHAIR: Stefany Garcia, wife of Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia; Family Access and Engagement Coordinator, Holyoke Public Schools


Ari Berezin, Mt. Holyoke Management

Gloria Caballero-Roca, educator and community activist

Rory Casey, Holyoke Treasurer

Patti Devine, former Holyoke City Councilor

Joe Charles Mazzola, owner, Paper City Fabrics

Andrew Melendez, Director/Founder, Latino Economic Development Corporation

Priscilla Rivera, co-owner, City Sports Bar, Holyoke

Cesar Ruiz, President & CEO, Golden Years Home Services

Melvin Sanchez, business development, Full Power Radio

Elizabeth Simpson, Director of Grants & Philanthropy, Holyoke Public Schools

Elaine Vega, Vice President, Housing Management Resources, Inc.

Monica Velez, co-owner, Jibaritos Sports Club


CHAIR: Aaron Vega, Holyoke Director of Planning & Economic Development; former State Representative, 5th Hampden (2012-2020)


Kathy Anderson, Holyoke community leader, former Holyoke Director of Planning & Economic Development

Delcie Bean, Founder & President, Tech Foundry; Founder & CEO, Paragus Strategic IT

Jeff Bianchine, Managing Director, The Print Shop, Inc., former Holyoke Creative Industries Coordinator

Jordan Hart, Executive Director, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce

Jeff Hayden, Vice President, Business & Community Services, Holyoke Community College; former Holyoke Director of Planning & Economic Development

Jennifer Keitt, Development Specialist, Holyoke Office of Planning & Economic Development

Matthew Mainville, Executive Director, Holyoke Housing Authority

Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, Executive Director, EforAll Holyoke; Holyoke city councilor


CHAIR: Michael Kane, Eversource, Community Relations; former State Representative, 5th Hampden (2001-2012)


Priscilla Chesky, Esq., Lyon & Fitzpatrick

Carl Eger, Vice Chair, Holyoke Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors

Don Humason, Chester Town Administrator; former Westfield Mayor and former State Senator, 2nd Hampden & Hampshire District (2013-2020)

Dr. Alfred Hutt, retired

Bill Johnson, President & CEO, Hampshire Towing

Susan Knightly, President, Ferry Hill Management


Jordan Hart, Executive director, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce

Entrepreneurial Strike Team

“Not only is the Victory Theatre a historic asset, but upon completion it will be an economic anchor for businesses, enhance Holyoke’s growing nightlife, and bring thousands of people to spend money in our city throughout the year. For the Chamber, it will be an opportunity to better promote our city as a vibrant business community, and to promote and hold events. It will be a great connecting point to further business connections.”

Jeff Bianchine, Managing Director, The Print Shop, Inc., Holyoke; former Holyoke Creative Economy Industries Coordinator

Entrepreneurial Strike Team

“Everyone seems to forget that the creative economy in Massachusetts is the third largest in the country and one in six workers in Western Mass. works in creative fields – one of the highest ratios in the country. The arts is huge business, an economic driver. The Victory is a no-brainer. If you’re not working it, you’re going to go enjoy it.”

Bill Johnson, CEO, The Johnson Groups

Building Committee

“Although I am not a Holyoke native, I have a great appreciation of Holyoke and its history. Bringing the Victory Theatre to its former glory will bring visitors to Holyoke and the surrounding communities. The patrons of the Victory theater will be a primer for the economic revitalization of the area.”

Elaine Vega, Vice President, Housing Management Resources, Inc.

Community Fundraising Strike Team

“The Victory will be a place for opera, ballet, modern dance, theater and music representing all cultures and styles. A space where everyone is welcome, and where everyone in the greater Holyoke region knows that they belong. We will be lauded as a national model, where the rest of the country will come to experience programming that is unique and inspiring.”

Kathy Anderson, former director of the Holyoke Office of Planning and Economic Development