The operation of the Civic Hall is expected to cost ratepayers more than half a million dollars every year, the City of Ballarat has said.
In a statement to The Courier, the council put the ongoing running costs of the hall at between $500,000 and $550,000 per annum.
The figure is stated as a net cost, which means it should also take into account any income that may be generated by events held at the venue.
It is the first time the projected operating costs of the Civic Hall, where a large-scale refurbishment was completed last year, have been made public.
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That spending includes costs for utilities bills, maintenance, marketing and wages.
A burden on ratepayers was flagged - but not broken down into detail - when the Ballarat Civic Hall precinct masterplan was adopted by the previous council in April 2016. Then interim CEO Frank Dixon, who prepared that report, said the decision to retain the Civic Hall would result in "significant additional costs".
The City of Ballarat has also given details of the hall's income during the months it has operated so far.
The first four months of its opening, from the beginning of March to the end of June last year, was in the 2018/19 financial year. During that time, $112,053 was spent on the venue and it generated $59,958 in revenue, the council has said.
It was open for six months the following financial year, before closing for maintenance last summer. Expenditure during this time was $214,764, while revenue was $34,621, a net cost to Council of $180,143.
The venue has now been closed since March due to restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with previous bookings now postponed until next year.
The City of Ballarat believes its bookings will increase in the future when restrictions ease - and the venue becomes more widely known.
The venue is experiencing an increase in bookings as its profile lifts within the touring events and performance sector as one of few large format multipurpose flat floor halls in Regional Victoria
Last year, among the more high-profile performances were the Wiggles, as well as singers Kris Kistofferson and Lee Kernaghan.
There were also community events held in the hall, ranging from a night in support of the Interkultura Football tournament to the Ballarat South Senior Citizens Community Ball.
There were no "cost neutral" options presented to the previous council.
Any council strategy to help the venue cover its costs is complicated by so-called "competitive neutrality" guidelines.
That means the venue is meant to compete on a level playing field with other similar commercial venues around the city.
In other words, the hiring of the hall should in theory be at true commercial rates so it does not unfairly take away business from privately run companies.
The rules on competitive neutrality were tightened in the 1990s, a stage when the Civic Hall was in decline.
Fees for the hire of the venue are listed in the 2020/21 budget documents. These show the rental of the hall costs $1,650 for non-profit groups for 12 hours, and $3,300 for commercial hirers. The hiring of technicians, ushers and other staff costs extra.
Until works began in 2017, the hall had been derelict since 2002. The works on the site followed many years of various , indecision and highly charged debate.
Among the projects proposed was the demolition of the building to build new council offices.
A highly organised campaign group mobilised when councillors approved the hall's demolition in 2013.
That decision was later reversed. In 2016, a total of $6.78m million was set aside for works to upgrade the hall, including the refurbishment of the interior and landscaping works outside.
The smaller lower hall was demolished to incorporate the state-government GovHub project, which was confirmed in May 2017.
Since the completion of Stage 1 works, which ultimately cost $7,386,900 after variations, further works have been scoped out.
The current council agreed to $2 million Stage Two works in June 2019, including for a new commercial kitchen.
CIVIC HALL KEY DATES
- 1956: The Civic Hall is opened for the first time
- 2002: After years of decline, the venue closes
- 2011: Site proposed for new council buildings
- 2013: Demolition approved
- 2014: Demolition decision reversed
- 2016: Precinct master plan approved
- March 2019: Stage 1 works complete, hall reopens
- June 2020: Tender goes out for new ktichen
MORE ON THE CIVIC HALL:
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