Costly Griffith theatre upgrade moved forward

COUNCIL has been forced to outlay hundreds of thousands of dollars to refurbish dilapidated seats and unsafe carpet being held together with tape at the Griffith Regional Theatre.

Theatre management has claimed the community facility is not safe and would fail a building code audit, necessitating the upgrades 12 months ahead of schedule.

The estimated $321,368 refurbishment will revitalise the theatre which is groaning under the weight of an increasingly busy program. 

“The theatre was up to the building code when it was built 27 years ago, but theatres are being audited across Australia and if we were audited we wouldn’t be up to code in terms of seating and lighting,” theatre manager Sarah Boon said. 

“We try to mitigate as best as possible, such as giving our ushers torches, but it’s not good.

“Currently we have carpet gaffer taped together which is a huge health and safety risk and I don’t want somebody tripping over and hurting themselves.

“The seats have done well over 27 years, but most people change their furniture in that time and they don’t have nearly the same amount of foot traffic.”

The project was scheduled for 2016 but the theatre is in such disrepair it had to be brought forward 12 months. 

The rush has forced the Australia Day ceremony, which was held in the theatre for the first time this year, to find another venue.

Theatre manager Sarah Boon said if renovations were delayed to avoid a clash with Australia Day then the theatre’s “bottom line would be greatly affected”.

“On average between 2009 and 2013 we have held 60 shows per year and we have had 31,600 people coming though the venue,” Mrs Boon said.

“This year we are already looking at 100 shows, including rehearsals at the theatre and sell-out shows like Reece Mastin last night.

“The theatre was just awarded a readers’ choice award from the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide for the top attraction in the Riverina and we need adequate facilities to sustain that and build our audiences.”

Councillor Mike Neville said council had been considering the refurbishment for the past seven years and had not rushed the decision by bringing it forward. 

Cr Neville said the project had been costed in the 10-year capital expenditure plan, so it would not affect cash flow and was significantly cheaper than paying out a negligence law suit to someone who tripped on the worn carpet. 

“My wife has had a hip replacement and she couldn’t sit in the theatre seat because it was too uncomfortable,” Cr Neville said. 

“We can’t keep patching up chairs beyond their use by date and putting it off any longer will only incur additional costs.

“If we’re going to do this we need to do it properly.”

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