AUT University will invest $5 million in the Waterfront Theatre Project in Auckland's Wynyard Quarter in a new partnership with Auckland Theatre Company (ATC).
For their investment AUT will own 15 per cent of the company established to develop, own and maintain the new theatre. The Waterfront Theatre Trust will own the other 85 per cent.
"The new theatre will be a centre for cultural development and expression in New Zealand and AUT is thrilled to be part of bringing that to Auckland," AUT Vice Chancellor, Derek McCormack said.
"The initiative is an investment in our community, and a relationship that will benefit students, the artists and wider society."
The ownership interest in the theatre would provide opportunities for a wide range of AUT students and staff, including performing arts, event management, fashion design and media studies.
"Universities don't just provide knowledge, we need to draw it in also," McCormack said.
The investment builds on AUT's successful collaboration with the Millennium Institute of Sport and Health, in the creation of the AUT Millennium Institute, a high performance sports centre on Auckland's North Shore. The new theatre will offer similar opportunities in the field of theatre and arts.
Ross Green, chair of the Waterfront Theatre Trust, said the collaboration would help engage young people with the performing arts.
"This investment shows AUT and ATC live in the modern world, and that we share an understanding of the role that arts and creativity play in the development of young people," he said.
The new theatre would also continue the development of Auckland's waterfront area.
"Aucklanders love the city's waterfront and want to see it developed for the full benefit of the city's inhabitants," Green said.
The 600 seat theatre will become the permanent home of ATC.
The $5 million donation by AUT takes total funding to $31.3 million of the required $35 million. AUT's investment was a "game changer" for the project, Green said, adding: "It gets our fundraising over the $30 million. It means the theatre will happen, there will be a new theatre built on the waterfront."
While specific donors have not been found for the final funds, the trust is confident the money will come.
"The really hard yards have been done. It has given the project momentum," Green said.
ATC General Manager Lester McGrath said construction would hopefully begin early next year with an opening scheduled for 2015.
This year ATC celebrates its 21st year.
Green said the new Waterfront Theatre "is our birthday gift to the city".
- Fairfax Media