Waikato Regional Theatre gets Hamilton’s support

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The new Waikato Regional Theatre has moved into another stage with Hamilton City Council provisionally allocating funding in its draft 2018-28 10-Year Plan.

At a meeting in early December, Hamilton City councillors agreed to set aside money for the Waikato Regional Theatre, although the council still has to approve the 10-Year Plan and associated funding in 2018.

Proposed funding includes $25 million towards building the theatre (spread over three years) and an annual grant of $1.1 million for 20 years once the theatre is open in 2021.

The regional theatre project is being convened by Momentum Waikato Community Foundation and its chairman, Leonard Gardner, says it’s evident there is strong support for the theatre.

“This theatre will meet the needs of the city and region, and I congratulate Hamilton City Council for having the foresight to put aside funding for this important project,” he says. “This is an exciting and rare chance to create a new, vibrant, creative precinct for our city – one that will help transform the city centre and inspire the local and wider community.”

The flexible functionality theatre will be built on the old Hamilton Hotel site on Victoria Street. It will have about 1100 seats, and the building will incorporate shared public spaces and a public art gallery. It is intended to replace Founders Theatre – closed for safety reasons in March 2016.

A feasibility report, compiled by international theatre consultants Charcoalblue, was presented to Hamilton City Council’s Mayor and councillors in August and has been followed by roadshows around the wider region to share information with people. It is estimated to cost $72.9 million.

Work is moving ahead quickly, with Charcoalblue already in the second phase of consultation, meeting with specialist stakeholder and user groups before floor plans, elevations and more detailed concepts are delivered in a final design.

An artist’s impression of what the interior spaces of the new Waikato Regional Theatre building could look like and how they would connect to the river. Images: Jasmax.

Funding of $30 million for the theatre is planned to come from local councils, a further $30 million from generous families and organisations in the Waikato region, and $13 million from central government. Mr Gardner says Hamilton city and other councils will be getting excellent value for money for their $30 million.

Following its intensive initial consultation this year, Charcoalblue recommended a top performing and visual arts hub that will co-exist with a proposed separate (privately developed) lifestyle art hotel, public art gallery and retail space, allowing for shared spaces for meetings, conferences and events.

The cost of incorporating the hotel, gallery and retail spaces are not included in the Momentum Waikato recommendation, as these will be developed privately, but sharing facilities with these provides many synergies and economies of scale.

The theatre would be an energy efficient build and would be at the heart of a creative precinct with outdoor courtyards, a strong link between the theatre, the river and its environment, including the nearby Waikato Museum. It would have dual access from Embassy Park (home of the Riff-Raff statue) on one side and Sapper Moore-Jones Place (formerly Marlborough Place) on the other.

The theatre’s strong connection with the Waikato River provides an obvious access point for a new pedestrian bridge across the river, as investigated in the Hamilton City Council CBD Transformation and River plans.

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