Two hundred more seats have been added to the design of the proposed Waikato Regional Theatre in Hamilton.

Updated concept designs for the new regional theatre were released this week, showing an increase in seat numbers following public feedback.

The designs, prepared by international theatre consultants Charcoalblue on behalf of Momentum Waikato, have detailed floor plans, elevations and more detailed concepts, adding to the initial designs released in 2017.

Momentum Waikato CEO Kelvyn Eglinton says the submission process for the theatre revealed a lot of support for the project, but also flushed out worries about the size of the theatre auditorium.

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"We were really pleased with the feedback we received from all around the Waikato region and from user groups.

"We have listened to that feedback and we've increased the seat numbers in the theatre from 1100 to 1300 on the back of this," Mr Eglinton said.

Many submitters were concerned about accessibility and parking at the river-facing theatre, which will be built on the old Hamilton Hotel site on Victoria Street.

It will have dual access from Embassy Park on one side and Sapper Moore-Jones Place on the other. Equipment vehicles will use the Sapper Moore-Jones Place access.

"Charcoalblue has worked with the National Symphony Orchestra, taken their largest truck and mapped out turning circles and the parameters they'll work within when they use the new theatre."

Mr Eglinton says the NSO would have the largest trucks and equipment of any of the theatre users, so it was important to ensure they could be accommodated with appropriate traffic management in place.

Parking and accessibility

Mr Eglinton said submitters also raised parking as another item and this is being dealt with in several ways.

"We know how well it works when the rugby is on and there's a managed approach to getting people out of the stadium and back to their cars or into town – that's an approach we'll be taking when there's large events on at the theatre.

"Waikato people are well used to this, and it works well."

Recent events in the heart of Hamilton such as the Chinese Lantern Festival and the rugby Sevens warm-up party showed the city can easily cope with absorbing and dispersing people."

"While parking is a city-wide issue, there are several hundred carparks available within 400m which is just a few minutes' walk from the theatre.

"A count of carparks shows a total of 2200 parks in buildings or streets nearby. Disabled access will obviously be accommodated."

Costs and funding

The Waikato Regional Theatre project has been costed at $73. Two entities are planned for the new Waikato Regional Theatre.

One will be a property trust responsible for property management and maintenance of the theatre so that any investment made by local government and funders is maintained in line with an appropriate asset management plan. Hamilton City Council has agreed to an annual grant of $1.3 million as the base fund for the property trust with other required capital maintenance funds coming from operational revenues.

The second will be an operating trust, initially funded through seed-funding, and this will enable the management and operational aspects of the theatre business such as promotions, education and bookings.

A front on view from Victoria Street of the Waikato Regional Theatre which has a hotel on the top level with Embassy Park located on the left. Photo / Jasmax
A front on view from Victoria Street of the Waikato Regional Theatre which has a hotel on the top level with Embassy Park located on the left. Photo / Jasmax

The project meets the needs of the city and region and will create a vibrant creative precinct that will transform the city centre and inspire the local and wider community.

"This theatre is a truly regional project that everyone can enjoy, just like the Waikato Stadium, Claudelands, the Avantidrome and Mystery Creek.

Mr Eglinton says the required geotechnical work has been done on the riverbank site and shows the land is appropriate and safe for the theatre building foundations.

Funding of $30 million for the theatre is planned to come from local councils, Trust Waikato has committed $15 million, $16 million will be sought from central government, sponsorship or Lotteries funding, and the balance is expected to come from families and organisations in the Waikato region.

In 2016, Hamilton City Council agreed in principle to spend up to $30 million towards a theatre, and Momentum Waikato and the Council commissioned Charcoalblue to run the process.

"The project meets the needs of the city and region and will create a vibrant creative precinct that will transform the city centre and inspire the local and wider community.

"This theatre is a truly regional project that everyone can enjoy, just like the Waikato Stadium, Claudelands, the Avantidrome and Mystery Creek," Mr Eglinton said.

"Hamilton is the fourth largest city in New Zealand and the Waikato is the third largest regional economy.

"The time has come for us to build the creative and cultural elements that other cities already enjoy."

New hotel

The design of the new theatre has shared public spaces, a public art gallery and retail space, and also a lifestyle hotel.

The areas to be shared between the theatre and the privately developed lifestyle art hotel will allow for cost savings and provide shared spaces for meetings, conferences and events.

The cost of incorporating the hotel, gallery and retail spaces are not included in the recommendation, as these will be developed privately. Mr Eglinton said calculations show it will not be cheaper to build anywhere else.

"The shared costings with the proposed hotel mean we have been able to keep costs for the theatre lower while still delivering what will be an international-level theatre."

The hotel would restore the original façade and some internal elements of the old Hamilton Hotel, recognised as a heritage building.

Timeframes

The next phase is the preliminary design which gives greater visibility of and confidence in technical and budget requirements. This is due in September, followed by detailed design and documentation in February 2019 and calling for tenders in March 2019. The new theatre has a planned opening in June 2021.