Founders Theatre

​Public Consultation

What should we do with Founders Theatre?

Between 25 October and 26 November, we're asking the public for the public's comment on the future of this aging facility.

Although Momentum Waikato is leading the project on a proposed new regional theatre (see further down this page, or visit Momentum's website), determining the future of Founders is also vital to the Council, the city and the community.

Founders Theatre is a significant and well-loved city asset, but if it's to be used again, it needs a lot of repair and refurbishment work – potentially in excess of $10 million.

To inform the Council's decision on the future of Founders, the public's viewpoints are important.

You can click here​ to be taken to a survey where you can provide your comments on what we should do with Founders.​

Once we have concluded our public consultation, management staff will provide a report on the community's views and present to the Mayor and Councillors in December. 

Proposal for the Future use of Founders Theatre​

The Council is facing a crucial decision on the future of Founders Theatre, which was closed last year due to safety concerns. ​

Following recent discussions, the Council has identified several options for the future of the facility – although it's important we stress no decision has been made.

One option is to reinstate Founders Theatre for community use. At this stage, the Council wants proposals from organisations and groups potentially interested in taking over operation and/or ownership of Founders.  You can see the Council's official resolution at the foot of the page.

There is an expectation the organisation or group would to contribute towards the reinstatement costs.

If your organisation is interested in taking over Founders, we'd like to hear from you.

​You can download an expression of interest form here​​, or you can contact Raewyn Napier at Raewyn.Napier@hcc.govt.nz or 07 838 6537 to arrange for a hard copy to be sent to you.  You will then need to return it to Raewyn by email, or drop it in to the Municipal Building.

Interested groups have until 19 November, 2017, to provide a proposal.

Once all proposals have been received, a panel of councillors will consider them and groups may be asked to present their proposal to the Council.  We will contact you and let you know.

​Options for Founders Theatre

​​​1. Complete Demolition - Demolish the entire building and return the site to greenspace. Estimated cost of $802,100.
​2. Partial Demolition and Re-use - Demolish the foyer​, auditorium and stage house, but retain the existing dressing room building for re-use. Integrate the building with the surrounding park. Estimated cost of $1,197,718.
​3. Reinstate for Community Use - Undertake earthquake strengthening and compliance upgrades and cut down the height of the stage house with the balance of the building to be retained in its current state. Estimated cost of $5.7 - $12 million.​​​

Members of the public will get to have their say on the future of Founders theatre, and how the Council funds the proposed Waikato Regional Theatre on 25 October through to 26 November.

At its 21 September Ordinary meeting, the Council accepted two reports relating to the respective theatre projects.

You can read those full reports here, on the meeting agenda.

Council staff recommended public three options for the future of the Founders Theatre​.

  • Complete Demolition - Demolish the entire building and return the site to greenspace.
  • Partial Demolition and Re-use - Demolish the foyer​, auditorium and stage house, but retain the existing dressing room building for re-use. Integrate the building with the surrounding park.
  • Reinstate for Community Use - Undertake earthquake strengthening and compliance upgrades and cut down the height of the stage house with the balance of the building to be retained in its current state.

The public consultation process to determine what happens with the theatre is expected to run through October and November.

The funding of the proposed Waikato Regional Theatre – which the Council has, in principle, committed $30 million to – will also be part of the Council's 10- Year Plan engagement.​

As part of its discussion on 21 September, the Council also directed staff to provide more in-depth feedback to Momentum Waikato on the proposed theatre design. The feedback will more thoroughly explore details and designs for  the site, the audience capacity, technical aspects, and back-of-house areas.

More theatre details announced

More details on the proposed Waikato Regional Theatre have been unveiled.

At its August 24 Ordinary Meeting, the Council received a further report from Momentum Waikato, outlining some of the features and design aspects of the theatre.

The design incorporates expansive views of the Waikato River through floor-to-ceiling glass walls, variable crowd capacity – catering to audiences of up to 1100 people – plus an adjustable stage, and moveable side walls and proscenium arch.

In their report to the Council, representatives of Momentum Waikato and the professional experts engaged also outlined a suggested timeframe for construction.  Four design phases would span March 2018 to February 2019, before the consent procedure in April 2019, construction completion in April 2021, followed by a fit-out in June and an expected opening in July 2021.

Momentum's presentation also gave insight into possible ownership and management of the theatre, encompassing an operating company to manage the theatre,  and a regional trust  responsible for ownership.

The Council asked staff to produce a consultation and communication plan to seek further community feedback on the theatre proposal, and the future use of Founders Theatre.

To visit the Momentum Foundation website for more information on the proposed theatre, click here​.

Momentum Waikato preferred​ theatre location

An historic hotel building in central Hamilton has been identified as the favoured location for a proposed new regional theatre.

In July 2017, Momentum Waikato announced the old Hamilton Hotel building on the corner of Victoria St and Sapper Moore-Jones Pl as the preferred site.

The building is currently in private ownership and houses a number of bars, restaurants and eateries. It is bordered by Embassy Park and Sapper Moore-Jones Pl.

It was selected from a shortlist of seven sites across Hamilton, as chosen by international theatre consultancy firm CharcoalBlue. CharcoalBlue was commissioned to undertake the work by Momentum.

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."

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

Momentum Waikato is encouraging the community to offer feedback on the recommended site, and this can be done either via Momentum Waikato or via the public consultation process from September. Members of the public are also welcome to sign up for regular updates from Momentum Waikato.

Sean Murray, Hamilton City Council's General Manager Venues, Tourism, and Major Events Group, says announcement is a positive step forward for the project.

"We're excited and pleased Momentum Waikato and Charcoalblue are recommending a site in the central city," Mr Murray says.

Mr Murray says if the construction of the new theatre goes ahead on the site, it will contribute to some of the Council's strategic aims for the city – particularly the River Plan and the Central City Transformation Plan.

"In terms of a concept, we like the idea the theatre could be accessed from the river," he says. "Developing a new theatre on that site puts it right in the heart of the city's hospitality district, as well as the city's creative district.

"The Hamilton Hotel is an important heritage building for the city and this project, if it proceeds, would give it a fantastic new lease on life and add richly to its history and prominence."

  • momentumwaikato.nz​

Reports and Information

The Council has produced and received a range of reports and information since the initial closure of Founders Theatre in February 2016 (due to safety concerns). You can click on the links below to read the reports themselves: you'll be automatically redirected to formal Council meeting agendas including these reports. We'll update this page as new formal reports or information become public.

If you're interested in the proposed new Waikato Regional Theatre – a project being led by Momentum Waikato – click here.​

Document Title Type Date Reference
Founders Theatre – Engagement and Recommended Option Council report 28 July 2016Click here
Founders Theatre – Future OptionsCouncil report 29 Sept 2016Click here
Waikato Regional Theatre Development Planning – UpdateCouncil report 9 Mar 2017Click here
Waikato Regional Theatre Development Planning –​ Update Council report 4 Apr 2017Click here
Proposed location announcement – Momentum Waikato Media Release/report 12 July 2017Click here
Waikato Regional Theatre – Concept Design Council report 24 Aug 2017Click here
Phase 1 report from Momentum WaikatoPresentation 24 Aug 2017Click here
Phase 1 report from CharcoalBlue Consultant's report 24 Aug 2017Click here  
Waikato Regional Theatre Council report 21 Sept 2017Click here
Founders Theatre – Update on Options Council report 21 Sept 2017Clic​k here ​​

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Page reviewed: 02 Nov 2017 2:03pm