Big top events centre mooted

UNDER COVER:  An $800,000 ‘‘big top’’ tent, capable of holding 6000 people, has been proposed by Aly Cook as an alternative events venue for the Nelson region.
UNDER COVER: An $800,000 ‘‘big top’’ tent, capable of holding 6000 people, has been proposed by Aly Cook as an alternative events venue for the Nelson region.

The closure of the Trafalgar Centre is inspiring some creative ideas for a new events centre for the Nelson region.

Events promoter and musician Aly Cook has presented the Nelson City Council with a proposal to buy and use a "big top" tent as a replacement for the Trafalgar Centre, which is closed because of earthquake safety issues.

Cook said that without a major events centre, the region was losing out on big events, but the tent would provide a quick and relatively cheap solution.

"The city could own the big top, and it could basically be here and landed in three months," she said.

"Even the very biggest option I presented was under $2 million landed and up, and that's a fraction of the figure to fix the Trafalgar Centre, so I am just offering them a quick alternative that would provide them with a larger venue."

Three possibilities were presented to the council, including a smaller tent that could hold 6000 people standing or 4500 seated, available from Italy for $800,000, not including shipping costs.

Another option was a big top from Germany priced at $1.2m, excluding shipping costs, with room for 7000 people standing or 5800 seated. It would also have room for a basketball court.

The final option was a permanent pyramid dome, which had no estimates included.

An extra $25,000 would be needed for a crew to put up the tent, and $20,000 to take it down.

Cook said that as a ratepayer, she saw these options as a "more cost-friendly alternative way to get a venue back up and running quite quickly in the city".

Having the tent would bring events back to Nelson and provide a weathertight space, she said. It would also help to attract larger events because of its size.

Cook said large-scale tents were used often at events and festivals in Europe and Australia, and showing promoters that Nelson had the capacity to host large events would attract them here.

She pointed out the longevity of the Mt Smart Supertop in Auckland as an example.

New Zealand events promoter Ian Magan supported the idea in a letter to the council.

"A modern big top would provide a comfortable and acoustically satisfactory alternative for the city, bringing back a number of producers and promoters who have lost the use of the Trafalgar Centre," he wrote.

Cook suggested Richmond Park as a site for the big top, as it was spacious, well-fenced and secure.

Cook said security guards would have to monitor the tent regularly, but maintenance demands and costs would be "pretty low", and "once it is there, it is pretty much solidly there".

"There is lots to be looked into. For now, it is an alternative idea of a way to put a venue back in place for the region cost-effectively."

Once the region regained a permanent functional events centre, the council could sell the tent or rent it out across the country for festivals and shows, she said.

‘There is [the] possibility to earn money from having it there and renting it out anyway."

Cook's presentation generally received positive feedback by councillors.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said Cook made a good presentation, and it was an interesting proposal that would be considered as part of the mix of various proposals.

Councillor Matt Lawrey queried whether there was a need for such a centre, considering that it had been difficult to fill the Trafalgar Centre at times.

Cook replied that having a larger space would attract bigger events, and therefore a greater audience.

She told the council it was something for the whole region, and she was putting the idea to the Tasman District Council as well.