The Whanganui War Memorial Centre in Pukenamu Queen's Park officially reopened at 12pm on Thursday in readiness for the 30th anniversary Downer New Zealand Masters Games which run from February 1 to 10.

Since June last year, the architecturally significant building has been undergoing extensive seismic strengthening to bring it up to 67 per cent of the new building standard.

The work has involved securing non-load-bearing masonry walls with additional steel poles and adding a reinforced shear wall structure on the forecourt near the main entrance.

Structural steel frames have been inserted at the rear of the auditorium and in the concert chamber.


Maintenance and redecorating were carried out in addition to the seismic strengthening.

Whanganui District Council general property manager Leighton Toy said the council was pleased to have the building upgraded to 67 per cent of the new building standard rather than the 34 per cent originally discussed.

"For not much extra outlay we've managed to get a significantly stronger building."

He said refurbishment of the concert chamber was due for completion in time for The CoLab glass artists' conference from February 15 to 17.

The total cost of the project was $4.58 million, of which about $2.6m was allocated for seismic strengthening and $2m for non-seismic upgrades.

"The council received a contribution from the Lottery Grants Board, which offset the cost to the community."

Built in 1960, the centre is a living memorial to the servicemen and women who lost their lives during World War II.

It features a book of remembrance, antique artillery gun and stained-glass window based on Laurence Binyon's poem, For the Fallen.


In 1961 the building was awarded a gold medal from the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

"It's a very functional, attractive building and offers great versatility for hosting events," Whanganui venues and events lead co-ordinator Kylie Wetherall said.

Toy said the centre would be enjoyed by the community for generations as well as being an attraction for visitors.

"Whanganui is known for its interesting architecture and we are fortunate to have the War Memorial Centre here, given that it's listed as one of the top 50 modernist buildings in the Southern Hemisphere."

A games village has been set up on the forecourt of the War Memorial Centre and New Zealand Masters Games participants will be welcomed into the revamped centre as they come in to register.

"The centre is already a hive of activity and the forecourt will provide a wonderful social hub for the Masters Games, with this stunning building as a backdrop."

• The 2019 Downer New Zealand Masters Games opens on Friday night and runs until February 10.