Work on creating a concept design and finding the very best location for the new Waikato Regional Theatre is tracking extremely well, says Momentum Waikato.

The community foundation has joined with Hamilton City Council to fund the work into recommending the best options to replace the aging Founders Theatre, closed last year due to safety concerns.


Momentum Waikato’s role is to convene, connect and align generous people in the Waikato to create a better Waikato for everyone, forever - linking major projects with strategic philanthropy.


Momentum Waikato was approached last year by a number of generous individuals and organisations interested in utilising the Foundation to contribute to a new theatre. It will convene $25 million of donor funds toward the creation of a new regional theatre, contingent on Hamilton City Council underwriting $30 million towards a new build, as decided by the two organisations last year. Hamilton City Council will be seeking funding from central, regional and other Waikato local councils to contribute towards their portion of funding.


Momentum Waikato Chair Leonard Gardner says a true public-private partnership has been created to deliver a great community outcome.


Momentum Waikato and Hamilton City Council have each secured $100,000 and appointed the independent Waikato Regional Theatre Governance Panel to manage a robust process to determine optimum theatre configuration, design, location and the range of expected community benefits of a new theatre. In December last year it engaged international theatre design consultancy Charcoalblue to carry out the work.


Charcoalblue has spent several months talking with stakeholders and user groups throughout the region and investigating locations around Hamilton City, owned by the Council or private landholders, to make its recommendation on concept and location. This recommendation is due to go to Hamilton City Council and to public consultation in August.


Mr Gardner says Charcoalblue is also working with architects, engineers and arts advisers to create the recommendation for Phase One – the master plan, cost estimate and build-plan for a new theatre. “This is an incredibly robust process and Charcoalblue has been very thorough in their discussions and investigations to this point, including analysing many years of use of Founders’ Theatre and discussing ways to encourage participation in the arts through to comparative analyses of theatres and venues in other New Zealand cities.”


Mr Gardner says the Waikato Regional Theatre needs to have a positive impact on the lives of all in the Waikato region, must complement and enhance the urban fabric of Hamilton, and also be adaptable for future generations.


“Charcoalblue’s work has made some key conclusions including that the theatre must bridge an audience gap currently created between Claudelands, Meteor Theatre and Clarence St Theatre. “The wider picture is for the theatre to have a positive impact on the wider creative sector in the Waikato. We are looking for this to be achieved in two ways: by firstly choosing a location that can help develop a creative precinct; and secondly through education - seeking to engage with the secondary schools throughout the Waikato to inspire our young people into the creative industries,” he says.


“This is a generational opportunity to create a significant community asset for our region, and, for the sake of the future generations, we need to make sure we do it well,” Mr Gardner says.


Momentum Waikato continues to talk with generous families and individuals in the region who support the Waikato community and want to provide strategic funding for this project. “The Waikato Regional Theatre is a hugely important project for a growing region. We’ve been heartened by the progress made so far, and by the support already being received from the public, donors and local councils.”


He says the ability to see this project through is really in the hands of the Waikato community. “Momentum Waikato will be making it easy to be generous and support the Theatre project, and it is an opportunity for everyone to engage in creating a better Waikato for everyone forever.”

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