Founders needs $15.7m: council review

04:38, Feb 05 2013

A wide-ranging review of Hamilton's struggling theatres is recommending a $15.7 milllion upgrade to Founders Theatre, selling the Clarence Street theatre and gifting the Meteor to a community trust.

The review follows widespread talks with the arts sector.

The theatres cost ratepayers $2.3m each year but are used barely one day in three, require major upgrades, and according to the review are in desperate need of fix-ups that have been put off for years.

The review assessed whether the three theatres were meeting the needs of the performing arts sector, their costs, use and revenue streams, and whether council should own or operate them.

It recommends upgrading the Founders progressively over ten years, gifting the Meteor to a community trust and sell Clarence St, redirecting about two-thirds of its users to the Founders.

About 40 per cent of the theatres' use is at full commercial rates, which the review said in the case of the Founders was the third most expensive of 40 Australasian theatres compared.

Presenting the review, The Stafford Group's Albert Stafford said there were "no small costs" in bringing the city's theatres up to standard, which both commercial and community users wanted.

The draft report will be opened up for public submissions and come back before council in April.

City economic development general manager Sean Murray said regardless of the review, the council was faced with some serious issues getting the theatres up to standard, particularly as around half of its costs associated with the theatre were fixed, for example debt repayments.

"I believe, hand on heart, we've got the controllable costs as tight as possible, perhaps too tight." Mr Stafford said the Founders upgrade would accommodate the needs of major users such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Mr Murray said there was "a huge amount of love" in the community for the Founders and he believed it was a matter of council finding the best way to "do the old girl up".