John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Showtime comfort boosted at Baycourt

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Showtime is to become a lot more comfortable for Baycourt audiences when 534 new American-built seats are fitted early next year.

The seats will allow more leg room, improved seat height and better comfort levels - finally overcoming an issue that had been a big turn-off for audiences since 2003.

"It will be great news for a lot of people," Baycourt manager Megan Peacock Coyle told the Bay of Plenty Times.

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Tauranga City Council was today expected to approve a $280,000 contract with United States supplier Hadley's Theatre Seating.

Ms Peacock Coyle said the same seats were installed in Christchurch's Isaac Theatre Royal, so came well recommended. They were a different style of seat that accommodated taller theatre goers, and had been tested with different sized bottoms.

"We were very determined that we wanted to get the right chair," she said.

A survey last year of why people did not go to Baycourt saw half blame the uncomfortable seats, she said.

The balconies would retain their existing seats, giving the auditorium a total capacity of 582 people. Five extra seats will be added to the front row.

Friends of Baycourt chairwoman Anna Finlayson-Smith said it was good news because there had been ongoing issues with the old seats that were looking pretty tired. The Friends did not have input into the selection.

She said the new seats were more upright and higher off the ground, with a straighter back. There were be a bigger gap for knees and for people to access their seats.

Tauranga Musical Theatre president Elise Rohde welcomed the announcement as "extremely positive" because they got a lot of complaints, particularly about the lack of leg room.

Although the new seats would not be installed in time for their production of Mamma Mia, she looked forward to patrons enjoying more comfort for next year's show of Mary Poppins. Baycourt was the only theatre in Tauranga that had everything they required for musical theatre.

The current seats drew criticism almost from the day they were installed. Then mayor Jan Beange said in 2003 that they were the most diabolical seats she had ever experienced. "I hate to say it, but it needs to be redone. It is disgusting, that seating is terrible."

The seats had been a trade off between numbers and their style, with the council settling for a compromise which reduced the space between seats.

The new seats will have several adjustments for height, angle of backrest, backrest shaping and width of armrest, with each feature representing gains in comfort and ease of access.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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