RPAC business plan is probably out of date

The former Broadwater Hotel site from Mann St in Gosford CBDThe former Broadwater Hotel site from Mann St in Gosford CBD

[Forum] This letter is in response to Romaine Rutnam, whose letter, “RPAC critic invited to become a member” appeared in edition 220.

If the Friends Of the Performing Arts Precinct (FOPAP) actually did present a business plan for a Performing Arts Centre in 2010, I apologise to Romaine Rutnam, but I might have been out of the country at the time and can find no reference to it on the FOPAP website, so I cannot make any worthwhile comment on it.

In any case, a business plan, whatever its quality, that is nearly 10 years old cannot carry much weight today, when the demographics of the city are changing so rapidly and tastes are shifting so dramatically. For instance, 10 years ago, a regional library might still have seemed a reasonable proposition, whereas we know that, today, such a facility would serve no useful purpose.

However, I should like to make it clear that I am not an opponent of a concert hall. I am merely making the point that the proposals we’ve seen so far are wrongly sited, badly designed, underestimated cost wise and over elaborate in their ambitions. If there is such a convincing business plan in place but the project has still made zero progress in 10 years, it suggests that the management of the exercise has been lacking in competence.

A 10-year record of unrelieved failure to promote what is claimed to be a sound investment does not inspire confidence in the ability of proponents ever to bring a vision to fruition. In the business world, a change of direction would be clearly indicated, so, perhaps, the members of FOPAP need to take their blinkers off and look at the needs of the region as a whole.

At the moment, the Central Coast Conservatorium appears to have unwarranted emphasis in the deliberations that have taken place, no doubt because of rusted on relationships of not much contemporary relevance.

Ms Rutnam’s latest suggestion that the old Broadwater Hotel could be turned into a venue with a 1,000-seat and a 500-seat auditorium, of course, deserves consideration, although it would be surprising if a 500- seat acoustic shell could be easily fitted inside the structure of an old hotel or that the clear space for 1,000 seats would be readily available inside a building of this character.

My experience is that these kinds of renovations cost more than a new structure and can only be supported when the building is of great architectural or historical value, not a case that can be made for the Broadwater Hotel.

Furthermore, given that the Laycock and Wyong venues are both under 500 seats and are rarely oversold, the viability of a new 1,000-seat facility would require some serious justification. I also doubt that the Broadwater Hotel would become “the region’s premier tourism, cultural and educational magnet, as the Opera House has legitimately become for Sydney”: this is meaningless hyperbole.

Since the designated population growth areas for the city are north of Wyong, Gosford, which is already far off centre, ) will become increasingly eccentric within the region over the next 20 years, making the patron pool increasingly remote from a Gosford location.

The argument that Gosford has an established bus service (really, from Budgewoi? ) doesn’t signify much, since the beauty of bus services is that they can be rerouted at will to meet shifts in demand, and, in any case, I wonder how many patrons of the Wyong Arts Centre, for example, arrive by bus.

Perhaps, this point is covered in the old business plan. I can’t imagine taking one of the sparse late night bus services home from Gosford and I only live in Woy Woy. Commercial enterprises know what they are about, and it is not an accident that the regional shopping centre is at Tuggerah.

If the proposed residential development of Tuggerah goes ahead, this area will become even more of a magnet than it is now, so it is now time for Council, as Ms Rutnam says, “to bite the bullet” and designate a site at Tuggerah where an appropriate facility can be established.

Since I live in Woy Woy, Gosford would be a very convenient location for me, but personal preferences are not the issue here. Any professional analysis must dismiss Gosford as a venue for regionwide activities. Parenthetically, I live in hopes of seeing the Gosford stadium demolished and a proper field provided at the regional centre in Tuggerah. Perhaps, there could be joint parking and security for the two services.

Email, Nov 18 Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy