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Rival theatre plan for YMCA site

The YMCA building on Queen St. PHOTO/FILE

PAM GRAHAM
[email protected]

The idea of redeveloping the YMCA building in Masterton into a top-class performing arts centre has put the cat among the pigeons of Masterton District Council’s civic centre development.

The council was to consider a bold plan for the building at 371 Queen Street at an extraordinary meeting at 9am today.

No design work or costing has been carried out but to generate the assumed revenue of $200,000 a facility costing $6 million to $8 million would be needed and council would still need to top up with $100,000 a year.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson and elected members received a letter from the Masterton Community Centre Trust on November 27 asking if it would consider buying the YMCA building, fixing it up and running it.

A report to the meeting recommends the council declines but offers to donate the stage rigging, sound and lighting and curtains from the old town hall, which is being turned into a Civic Centre, though most meetings about that project have been held in secret.

The YMCA has signalled it wants to move out of the 40-year-old building.

The building is partially clad in corrugated cement sheets that have asbestos in them and it needs strengthening, though there’s been no detailed assessment.

The Masterton Amateur Theatrical Society and Harlequin Theatre are interested in turning it into a performing arts centre.

A steering group has come up with a vision that likens what could be built at the site to the Great Lake Centre in Taupo, a 358-seat theatre for a town with a population of 24,000, the Gisborne Memorial Theatre, a 500-seat theatre costing $9.6m for a population of 43,000, or a proposed $10 million Kapiti Performing Arts Centre.

Masterton has a population of 21,500, and Wairarapa 45,000.

The steering group wants a main theatre with 350 seats, a foyer with 120 seats, a dance studio with rehearsal space, a voice studio with a band room and recording studio, and a green room or pre-entertainment space.

It thinks 20 touring shows could use it a year, along with local theatre groups using it for 85 days and education groups for 45 days.

It also asked if the YMCA property was converted to a performing arts centre how would it fit with the council’s Civic Centre project.

“In principle, does the council have interest in committing to provide annual operating funding of circa $100,000?” the letter asks.

Council officers have come up with six options for a response, with the recommended approach to say no, but with the donation.

The report points out the project is not in the long-term plan and that if council went with the idea there would have to be public consultation due to its significance.

The trust also faces issues as it only has investments of $120,000 and would have to change its deed, which doesn’t allow trustees to sell the property or use it for anything other than a gym and youth club.

The building needs work and the YMCA rent covers minimal maintenance.

“If converted to performing arts use there may be synergies in MDC managing the facility in combination with its new Civic Centre.”

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