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New concept designs for Waikato Regional Theatre include 200 more seats

New concept designs for Waikato Regional Theatre include 200 more seats
April 24, 2018

Concept designs for the new Waikato Regional Theatre have been released, with public feedback having led to an increase in planned seat numbers.

Two hundred extra seats have been added the of the $73 million theatre proposal which will also include an art gallery, boutique five-star hotel and retail space.

The designs, prepared by international theatre consultants Charcoalblue on behalf of Momentum Waikato, show floor plans, elevations and more detailed concepts, adding to the initial designs released in 2017.

Momentum Waikato Chief Executive Kelvyn Eglinton says the submission process for the theatre revealed a lot of support for the project, but also flushed out worries about the size of the theatre auditorium, advising “we were really pleased with the feedback we received from all around the Waikato region and from user groups. We have listened to that feedback and we’ve increased the seat numbers in the theatre from 1,100 to 1,300 on the back of this."

Many respondents were also concerned about accessibility at the river-facing theatre, which will be built on the old Hamilton Hotel site on Victoria Street. It will 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.

Equipment vehicles will use the Sapper Moore-Jones Place access.

With the National Symphony Orchestra likely to have the largest trucks and equipment of any of the theatre users, Eglinton explained that it was important for the design to ensure they could be accommodated with appropriate traffic management in place.

He advised "Charcoalblue have worked with the National Symphony Orchestra, taken their largest truck and mapped out turning circles and the parameters they’ll work within when they use the new theatre."

Eglinton says respondents raised parking as another item and this is being dealt with in several ways, adding "we know how well it works when the rugby is on and there’s a managed approach to getting people out of the stadium and back to their cars or into town - that’s an approach we’ll be taking when there’s large events on at the theatre.

“Waikato people are well used to this, and it works well."

The Waikato Regional Theatre project has been costed at $73 million, including a 20% contingency. Eglinton says the required geotechnical work has been done on the riverbank site and shows the land is appropriate and safe for the theatre building foundations.

These costs do not include the  incorporating the hotel, gallery and retail space, which will be developed privately.

Funding of $30 million for the theatre is planned to come from local councils, Trust Waikato has committed $15 million, $16 million will be sought from the New Zealand Government, sponsorship or Lotteries funding, and the balance is expected to come from generous families and organisations in the Waikato region.

In 2016, Hamilton City Council agreed in principle to spend up to $30 million towards a theatre, and Momentum Waikato and the Council commissioned Charcoalblue to run the process.

The next phase of the project will be the preliminary design which gives greater visibility of and confidence in technical and budget requirements. This is due in September 2018, followed by the ‘etailed design and documentation phase in February 2019 and calling for tenders in March 2019. The new Waikato Regional Theatre has a planned opening date of June 2021.

When operationsl, two entities are planned for the new Waikato Regional Theatre.

One will be a Property Trust and be responsible for the property management and maintenance of the theatre such that any investment made by local government and funders is maintained in line with an appropriate asset management plan.

Hamilton City Council has agreed to an annual grant of $1.3 million which will act as the base fund for the Property Trust with other required capital maintenance funds coming from operational revenues.

The second trust will be an Operating Trust, initially funded through seed-funding, and this will enable the management and operational aspects of the theatre business.

Images: The new concept for the Waikato Regional Theatre (top) and the Theatre's planned riverside location (below).

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