Larger venue key if capital wants big acts - promoter

Last updated 05:00 20/12/2013
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The Australian promoter behind The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen playing Auckland next year says he would bring more big-name acts to Wellington - if it had a 12,000-seat venue.

The music industry veteran Michael Gudinski, who brought Leonard Cohen to Wellington's 4000-seat TSB Bank Arena this week, said a bigger venue was essential if the capital wanted the big names who now played only at Auckland venues, including the 12,000-seat Vector Arena.

"To me, Wellington has always been a more artistic town," he said. "It's been a very hip town, and some acts draw more people in Wellington than Auckland.

"I think Wellington is a big enough city to have a decent arena."

Gudinski, who last year was rated the most influential figure in the Australian music industry through his Mushroom Group of companies, including Frontier Touring, said some acts were bypassing New Zealand entirely because there were no suitable venues outside Auckland.

They included British band Muse. If Wellington had a 12,000-seat venue, the band would have played Auckland and Wellington, he said.

"I was desperate for them to come here, but they couldn't make sense of doing just Auckland's arena."

A big-name hip-hop star had also decided to bypass New Zealand for the same reason, he said.

Last year some Kiwi promoters, including Wellington-based Phil Sprey, said the city should build a 12,000-seat venue opposite Westpac Stadium.

However, CentrePort, which owns the land, said it was unlikely to happen.

Gudinski said it would be up to others whether to build an arena from scratch or to extend the TSB Bank Arena, which stood on "a beautiful site".

"I think between the local council, big business and government, there's got to be a way to work it out."

A 12,000-seater was essential for some acts, but modern design and technology would mean it could be altered quickly to suit different acts and audiences, he said.

"You press a button and chairs go and walls come up."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council recognised the need for a large covered concert venue, capable of attracting headline acts.

The concept was listed yesterday as one of eight "big ideas" capable of bringing visitors and money into Wellington.

Council officers and chief executive Kevin Lavery would now work on options and seek potential partners, Ms Wade-Brown said.

"This is about making Wellington an even more enjoyable place for people to live."

Positively Wellington Venues chairman Chris Parkin said he agreed that Wellington needed a bigger arena.

"Talk is cheap, but we really need to see some action."

A 7000 to 8000-seat venue might be more viable than a 12,000-seater, which could cost more than $100 million, he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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