Mystery over new music and arts venue at Forsyth Barr Stadium

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Mystery surrounds exactly what is being considered for a possible theater or music performance space at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The prospect of a performing arts hall in the stadium as part of a potential hotel development has been raised by both council staff and Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins.

Negotiations are progressing well, the council said in a statement attributed to Anna Nilsen, director of the property services group.

Yesterday, Mr Hawkins raised the possibility of private developers creating a venue that could accommodate live music.

An industry source suggested that a mixed-use facility, or convention-friendly space, might be more appealing to a developer.

Details on what might be in store have yet to be revealed.

Dunedin City Holdings Ltd chairman Keith Cooper, who played a leading role in trying to facilitate the development of the hotel, said he was bound by non-disclosure requirements.

Mr Hawkins’ initial statement prompted the Save Dunedin Live Music Group to offer their help “to make the venue as useful and accessible as possible for the music community of Dunedin and Aotearoa”.

“The introduction of any new performance space to Dunedin is a step in the right direction and we would certainly like to support and encourage investment in new venues by the council in the future,” said the band’s spokesperson, David Bennett.

However, the band had concerns about the nature of the venue and its place in Dunedin’s live music ecosystem.

The group looked forward to receiving more information about the project, Bennett said.

The possibility of private developers contributing space to performance venues has arisen as the city council continues to debate how this might bring better facilities for the theatre.

One concept that has emerged is a joint proposal to upgrade the Mayfair, Athenaeum and Playhouse theatres.

Mr Bennett said that if the stadium were to be touted as a potential solution to the mid-size theater issue, the community and industry should be given the opportunity to voice their concerns and provide feedback during the planning phase.

Mr Hawkins said the money remained in council budgets for the development of a performing arts venue.

The board has included $17 million in its 2021-2031 long-range plan for the development of a mid-size theater.

“I think one of the issues here is that we ended up confusing the needs of two very different industries, live music and the performing arts,” Hawkins said.

“That came out loud and clear last year when we were working on the 10-year plan.

“We need spaces to support artists and audiences from both, but I don’t see either of them being better served by a single solution.”

Mr Hawkins said a venue in the stadium could “change the conversation we had about the needs of the city”.

He described the situation as frustrating for a range of people.

“But we better take the time we need to make sure we make the best long-term decisions.”

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