$73m theatre gets 200 more seats

By Ruby Nykia, Waikato Times

Two hundred extra seats have been added to a brand spanking new design of a $73 million theatre proposal.

An art gallery, boutique five-star hotel and retail space would all be part of the proposed Waikato Regional Theatre.

The additional 200 seats were a result of public feedback, Momentum Waikato chief executive Kelvyn Eglinton said in a statement. It brings the seating capacity to 1300.

If it gets the green light, the theatre – overlooking the Waikato River on Victoria St – will be up and running by 2021.

The Hamilton City Council will fork out $25 million for the theatre and an additional $5m is expected from neighbouring councils.

Trust Waikato will contribute $15m, and $16m will be sought from central government, lotteries funding or sponsorship. The rest will be covered by local families and organisations.

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King said while extra seats may cost more, ratepayers won’t foot the bill.

“The local government contribution is capped at $30 million and I will not let this council pay a dollar more than the $30 million.

“Any of the risks are on Momentum for any cost overruns.”

King said the hotel paired with the theatre would bring more life to the CBD.

“It will be a really classy facility with the two of them together.

“I can’t think of anything in New Zealand that’s going to be this intact. All of these things together in one area within a few minutes’ walk. It’s the sort of thing you get in Europe a bit. With theatres right in the middle of town where everything is happening and all your restaurants are.”

And other plans are already being hatched for later down the track.

“Momentum are also talking about a link bridge from the theatre across to River Rd and that will link it up to a whole lot more parking as well.”

Lack of parking and the safety of the site have been two big concerns from submitters.

But the site has been given the green light and a new report had found car parks were plentiful in the evening, King said.

“There’s 2000 car parks within a six-minute walk of the theatre … And in the evening those car parks are empty.

“It all takes time but they’re slowly working through and discounting potential problems.”

King hopes building will begin next year.

Costs of incorporating the hotel, gallery and retail space, which will be developed privately,  aren’t included in the recommendation, Eglinton said.

But a hotel had kept the planned price of the theatre down.

“For Hamilton City Council’s $25 million contribution, the people of Hamilton will be getting a world-class theatre that puts us firmly on the culture map.”

The theatre is part of the Hamilton City Council’s 10-year-plan, currently open for consultation. Submissions close at the end of April.

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