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Transformational Projects

Waikato Regional Theatre

We have an exciting opportunity to create a vibrant, creative precinct for the city and region with Hamilton’s new Waikato Regional Theatre.

On 24 August, Momentum Waikato Community Foundation Chair Leonard Gardner, along with Waikato Regional Theatre Governance Panel Chair Dr Julian Elder, presented Hamilton City Council with a comprehensive Feasibility Report for the new theatre.

The report proposes a 1,100-seat theatre, shared public spaces with a lifestyle art hotel and a public art gallery, to be located at the old Hamilton Hotel site on Victoria Street. The new theatre will serve two purposes: firstly, to fill the gap left in Waikato’s creative community by the closure of Founders Theatre; and secondly, to build the best theatre possible for our region.

The report recommends a world-class theatre that will attract promoters and producers of international standard across a wide array of genres, attracting the calibre of performing arts events that the city and region deserves.

Founders Theatre was closed for safety reasons in March 2016. The absence of an equivalent venue has been strongly felt within the community. Momentum Waikato approached Hamilton City Council in July 2016 and offered to manage a robust process on behalf of our donors and our community, to find the best outcome for a new regional theatre.

The process was managed by the independently appointed Governance Panel, and the Feasibility Report was compiled by international theatre consultants Charcoalblue. The Charcoalblue team have worked on a vast array of theatres worldwide, including the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre and Royal Opera House, among many others.

The Charcoalblue report estimates that design processes and resource consent for the new theatre would take place in 2018, with final detailed designs ready in 2019. The theatre would be expected to open in 2021.

Funding of $30 million for the theatre is planned to come from local councils, a further $30 million from generous families and organisations in the Waikato region, and $10 million from central government.

We’ve heard from many generous individuals and organisations keen to make the theatre a reality, however the project requires the entire community to be generous and work together.

We encourage all generous people willing to invest in future generations to help us get the project across the line, and we encourage people to provide their feedback below or subscribe to be informed of opportunities to talk to us directly.

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The preferred location for the new Waikato Regional Theatre has been announced as the Hamilton Hotel site on Victoria St, Hamilton.

The image below shows the recommended location of the Waikato Regional Theatre. Markings also identify six areas from where the theatre would be visible. The Hamilton Hotel site is owned by the Plaw family.

A new theatre development would look to restore the facade of the old Hamilton Hotel, which is recognised as a heritage building. The site currently has a range of restaurants and bars and is bordered by Embassy Park (with the Riff Raff statue) on one side and Sapper Moore-Jones Place (formerly Marlborough Pl) on the other, and runs down to the river.

Momentum Waikato Community Foundation Chair Leonard Gardner says “This location will transform the region and city through recognising history, revitalising the CBD, supporting hospitality offerings, and enhancing connection with the Waikato River.”

Among the approximately 25 sites considered by Charcoalblue were Grantham St, Sonning Carpark (on River Rd) and Garden Place. The existing Founders site was carefully considered, as was the idea of utilising land at the University of Waikato, but the Hamilton Hotel site was deemed better able to achieve the goals of the community.

The concept design for the site and business case for the theatre will be formally presented to Hamilton City Council at its 24 August meeting and will then go out to public consultation.

Momentum Waikato is now encouraging people in our community to provide feedback on the preferred site. We invite you to download and review the Location Study Report and media release, and to complete the feedback form below.

You can also sign up for regular updates from Momentum Waikato, find out more about donating to the Waikato Regional Theatre, and express your interest in participating in Momentum Waikato’s community consultation sessions about the theatre concept design, which will take place across our region from September.

Download our Waikato Regional Theatre Location Study Report