9 August 2022

Waikato Regional Theatre project to boost cultural, social change of city

The much-awaited formal initiation of the new Waikato Regional Theatre was accomplished this morning in the sod-turning event by the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

The new theatre will be a world-class performing arts centre, and expected to create transformational change for the region, boosting and accelerating the cultural, social and economic life of the city and region.

Amidst Covid-19 alerts, initial construction activities at the site were launched in mid-October. Now, it is all set to go top speed.

The brief event was well attended by stakeholders, including Hamilton City Mayor, Paula Southgate and local Labour MP Jamie Strange.

The Prime Ministers address was, however, marred by a small group of vocal protesters, protesting against various pandemic measures.

PM at new Theatre
PM, Jacinda Ardern at sod-turning event (Photo: Mike Walen/Momentum Waikato)

The $73 million budgeted Waikato Regional Theatre will be located at the Hamilton Hotel site in the South End of Victoria Street and is being touted as the new ‘town hall’ for the Waikato.

This new development will retain and restore the façade of the old Hamilton Hotel, a heritage building. The site is bordered by the Embassy Park with the Riff Raff statue to the north and Sapper Moore-Jones Place (formerly Marlborough Place) to the south.

This new theatre will replace the 50-year-old Founders Theatre, which was closed in 2016 due to safety concerns and its auditorium will seat 1300 people.

The project is being funded by a mix of public, trust and philanthropic monies.

Major commitments include $25 million from the Hamilton City Council (equivalent to the cost of the repairing Founders), $5 million from the Waikato Regional Council (proportionally levied on regional ratepayers, based on distance from Hamilton), $15 million from Trust Waikato and $12 million from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The Hamilton City Council is also committed to providing $1.1 million per annum towards the maintenance of the theatre building.

The project was first mooted by the Momentum Waikato Community Foundation, but is now in the hands of the Waikato Regional Property Trust, which will own and run the new theatre.

The theatre is expected to open in the first-quarter of 2024.