Theatre group's Tank Farm venue planned to seat 600

By Bernard Orsman

The Auckland Theatre Company is in the early stages of planning a 600-seat theatre alongside the ASB Bank's proposed headquarters at the Tank Farm.

The $26.8 million theatre could be built on the site of Moana Fisheries in Halsey St and add a night-time attraction to a new family-friendly revitalisation of Jellicoe St and the historic North Wharf promenade.

Auckland Theatre Company general manager Lester McGrath said the plan was still at the "idea stage", although the company has received strong backing from the bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers has produced a business case for the project.

The city's leading theatre company is running out of venues. The likely loss of the SkyCity Theatre, which is to be turned into a cabaret space or sports theatre, will leave a gaping hole in venues for the performing arts.

Mr McGrath said ASB had proposed building a 200-seat studio theatre into its new volcanic-cone-topped building on the corner of Halsey St and Jellicoe St, which it would make available to the theatre company.

The theatre group would build its own 600-seat theatre next door. The stage could open out to a public courtyard at ground level of the bank building.

Auckland Theatre would run the two venues, which could be used by other performing arts groups, such as Black Grace dance company and emerging theatre organisations, he said.

Mr McGrath said the company would like to secure a commercial lease for the Moana Pacific site with Auckland Regional Holdings - the commercial arm of the Auckland Regional Council overseeing development of the Tank Farm - and planned to establish a charitable trust to raise the $26.8 million.

The company appeared before Auckland City Council's arts, culture and recreation committee last week and asked for a $5 million grant. Officers are due to report to the committee in August.

Auckland Theatre has used the 700-seat SkyCity Theatre twice a year for its more popular plays, staging more serious work at the 440-seat Maidment Theatre.

An Auckland City Council report in 2008 identified the need for a 600-seat theatre.

The $21 million flexi-form Q Theatre project, under way behind the Auckland Town Hall, will have seating for 350 to 460 people.

- NZ Herald

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