Fredericton Playhouse Temporarily Suspends Regular Operations for Asbestos Containment Project

The Fredericton Playhouse has shut down its regular operations while the City of Fredericton completes a significant project to contain asbestos fireproofing located in the building’s fly tower. The shutdown began on June 21st and is expected to continue to July 31st.

The Playhouse fly tower was constructed in 1971 – a time when asbestos was widely used in construction. The fly tower is the large “box” above the stage which contains the theatre’s systems for raising and lowering lights, sets and curtains.

The City of Fredericton, which is responsible for the Playhouse facility, has had an asbestos management plan in place for the building for several years, ensuring that the presence of asbestos does not present health risks to performers, attendees, or workers. Air sampling and ongoing inspections continue under that plan. So long as asbestos is not disturbed and become airborne, it is considered safe.

In response to a recent update of the asbestos management plan, the fireproofing in the fly tower will be fully contained as a precautionary measure. A recent assessment conducted by Stantec indicated it was in good to fair condition and is still providing the protection it was designed to do. Containing the asbestos - encapsulating it - is a commonly accepted practice in the construction industry to ensure asbestos fibers are never released into the surrounding air.

An option to remove the asbestos entirely was considered but is cost prohibitive and unfeasible given the end of life of the Playhouse and the City’s plan to replace it with a new facility.

The work will be undertaken by specialized contractors and will cost the City $35,000.

“This is an example of the work we will continue to see happening at the Playhouse until we decommission the building and move into a new facility,” explains Mayor Kate Rogers. “So long as we are using a poorly designed building that is at the end of its service life, these interruptions and expenditures will unfortunately be more and more common.”

While this work is being performed, the Playhouse will be unable to use its stage to host events. With public health measures still in place for managing COVID-19, the timing of the closure will have a minimal impact on the Playhouse’s event calendar.

“We did have to turn down or cancel a few events,” indicates Tim Yerxa, Executive Director. “But thankfully, given our reality this year, we didn’t lose too many. Hopefully our next major shutdown for large scale maintenance won’t come too soon as we hope to return with a full event schedule later this year.