Massey Hall reopens after undergoing $184 million in renovations
Published Thursday, November 25, 2021 1:33PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 25, 2021 9:59PM EST
One of Toronto’s most iconic venues has reopened after being closed for more than three years while it underwent $184 million in renovations.
Massey Hall hasn’t hosted a live performance since July 2018 but the long wait came to an end Thursday night with fans getting their first glimpse of the revamped venue during a special performance by Gordon Lightfoot.
Before his performance, Lightfoot was presented with the Key to the City by Toronto Mayor John Tory.
"I know he was born in Orillia, but he's definitely one of ours now for sure," Tory said.
"We are so blessed to live in this country. But we've needed people, perhaps more so than other countries, to tell our stories over time because there are fewer of us perhaps than there are people in other places that we love as well. But this is a magnificent country. And one of the people that's been a storyteller going way back is this man who I believe tonight is playing his 170th concert in this hall alone. He has done us proud as a Canadian artist."
Tory added that the reopening of the venue will bring people together again to celebrate arts, culture and music, "hopefully put a smile on people's faces and to enjoy again this magnificent building."
Lightfoot accepted the key, saying he was happy to be back to perform at the hall.
Thursday night's concert is the first of three consecutive performances by the acclaimed singer-songwriter, who also played the last show at Massey Hall prior to it being closed down for renovations.
“It is a traditional room that's been in in in performance action for over 125 years so the whole project was about protecting that intangible asset of what is in the auditorium but also addressing the many safety, hospitality and accessibility related challenges,” Massey Hall’s Vice President of Operations Grant Troop said of the renovations during an interview with CP24 on Thursday afternoon.
“It was all about improving the economics and I guess all of the assets that go along with the hall while not in any way way impacting that very intimate feel that you get in the auditorium. That intimacy in the auditorium is something that both artists and audiences have loved forever in coming to Massey Hall and so our objective was to preserve that.”
Troop said that new seats have been installed throughout the hall, including 470 removal seats that will allow for a general admission area for select shows that could boost the venue’s overall capacity from 2,550 to more than 2,800.
He said that the chicken wire that was used to protect crowds from crumbling plaster that had a tendency to fall from the ceiling has also been removed and all of the original stain glass that had been covered up by plywood has been fully restored.
As well, automated roller blinds have been installed so that natural light can filter through the stained glass windows as patrons file into the venue.
“Basically the view in the hall now is very similar to what patrons would have had when they first entered in 1894,” Troop said. “But it's completely re-resourced with all new safety features, new hospitality, additional lounges and bars and more than enough washrooms. So all those things that people remembered about Massey that were a little bit frustrating, I think we've done a pretty good job of addressing that.”
Massey Hall was gifted to the city by wealth industrialist Hart Massey.
It was declared a national historic site in 1981.