THE BAW Baw Shire will seek millions in funds from state and federal governments as well as the community to upgrade the West Gippsland Arts Centre.
Councillors approved a motion to seek $3.5 million from the state Regional Infrastructure Fund and up to $4.5 million from the federal government at a meeting last Wednesday.
The motion also approved the opening of a community fundraising campaign to raise $500,000 from the community to support the project.
If fundraising is successful the centre’s auditorium seating would be increased from 490 seats to the 750 originally proposed for the building.
Funds would also see the construction of a lift between upper and lower areas in the building to improve accessibility, upgrades to foyers and toilets, the installation of airlocks to improve heating and cooling, improved service desks, exhibition spaces, café areas and function areas.
Dressing rooms would be expanded and improvements made to the loading bay to allow theatre companies to put on larger productions.
The total cost of the project, which would be built in stages over three financial years from 2015, has been estimated by council staff at $10.5 million; well worth the cost, according to councillors.
“The most important part of this restrucutre is what it would bring to our community,” Warragul ward councillor Joe Gauci said.
“To be seen as being a spot where you can come out from the city, have a meal and see a show, it would make it seen not just as a regional arts centre, but as a [state] centre for the arts.
On moving the motion fellow Warragul ward councillor Gerard Murphy said he expected the community to get behind the project.
“There will be a fundraising event to find $500,000. The community do get behind things that they love, and I believe the community will get behind this,” Cr Murphy said.
“I commend it, I see it as something we have to do for the future.”
Mayor Murray Cook who was a member of the WGAC’s original building committee, said seating was sacrificed due to financial issues to allow enough stage space to accommodate large performances.
“There was a decision made to cut seating, not stage area which was so important,” Cr Cook said.
“It was always envisaged that when at the appropriate time when there is money we would add additional seating.”
The building officially opened on 19 July 1982, having costed $4.2 million to build. $2.84 million of that was provided by the state government and $1.36 million provided by local governments and fundraising.
What do you think of the proposal? Let us know using the comments box below. You can find more details in the meeting minutes.
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