At our meeting on Tuesday 21st November, Chairperson for the evening, Rotarian Trish Jones introduced the guest speaker Rob Robson, Manager of the West Gippsland Arts Centre (WGAC), who was invited to give members an update on the refurbishment of the WGAC.
     Rob began by reminding members of the significant changes that will occur in the area in coming years, population growth, age distribution and cultural diversity are all factors that will require forward thinking in relation to services, infrastructure and amenities to cater for these changes in Baw Baw’s demographic makeup.
     He says, “In order for our community to thrive, we have to be able and ready to adapt, we have to be smart, fit and well prepared.
We have to act at the right moment. This Arts Centre Upgrade project is about us being adaptable and agile. It is about doing what is needed at just the right time.”
     Rob believes that West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul is the cultural and community heart of our city. It’s a place where people work, perform, play, meet, engage in lively conversations, make friends, fall in love, explore new ideas, and find inspiration in and through the arts.
     The history prior to the current refurbishment is the West Gippsland Art Centre (WGAC) was built in the early 1980s as part of a regional development strategy.The building cost $4.2m and the community contributed $450.000 (over 10% of the cost). It was built against community opposition although the premise of: ‘If you build it, they will come’ obviously won out in the debate.
     The original plan was for a 750 plus seat auditorium (with stalls and balcony seating).
     As a result of delays, costs rose and, to save money, the final plan deleted the balcony seating, leaving an audience capacity of 490. The excellent stage facility and capacity was not compromised.
     Over the period of time of the initial facilities life the cost of maintenance, the limit on seating capacity, lost opportunities for various commercial activities and the need for modernisation and technology upgrades all became factors in reassessing the Complex.
  • In 2011 the issues were
  • In Planning exercise for precinct was undertaken.
  • In 2015 Minor venue upgrade: essential works to main toilets and auditorium.
  • In 2015 Schematic Design Development (RDV)
  • In 2016 Detailed Design ready to tender.
     So where has this all lead to as of now?
  • Design completed and costed @ $13.9m.
  • State Government funding (RDV) confirmed: ($4m)
  • Planning Scheme: Developer Contribution Plan funds, earmarked for the project since 2008,PLUS Long Term Capital Works budget confirmed: ($6m)
  • Successful application to Commonwealth Government for $4m.
  • Tender successful @ $13.4m
  • Project commenced April 2017.
The key factors taken into account for the refurbishment were:
Growing from 500 seats to 750 seats
  • Achieves the original plan for the theatre
  • Enables the venue to accommodate community audience demand (e.g. school concerts)
  • Attracts commercial hirers (shows and conferences) which brings revenue.
  • Revenue earned helps to make it possible to keep the venue affordable for community users.
  • Revenue also helps offset the cost of presenting the ‘arts’ program.
In conclusion Rob spoke of the most frequently asked question which are:
Do we need more seats?
  • Yes, many community and schools shows fill the current venue to overflowing.
  • We need more seats to attract the ‘Big Shows’ and ‘Big Shows’ bring revenue that allows subsidised community use and a diverse program.
Will there be more car parking?      
  • Yes, including more disabled parking
Will there be more Ladies’ Toilets?  
  • Yes, there will be additional toilets at all levels.
Is the project on track?
  • Slight delays, but still within projected target to re-open mid-2018.
     In thanking Rob for his presentation, both Chairperson Trish and President David commented on the extremely professional and articulate presentation and the excitement and potential that the refurbished facility will have for West Gippsland.