As Council gears itself up to open the $71 million Bay Pavilions in early 2022 they face the task of finding someone prepared to manage the facility. They might have a chance with the pools, gym and cafe however the theatre and gallery space appears to be proving a lot more difficult. So much so that Council has, it is understood, approached the two largest clubs in the town to see if they might be interested in leasing the theatre wing for $300,000 per year in a hope of meeting the estimated $2 million per year total running costs of the new Batemans Bay Pool and Theatre complex. It has taken over a year for Council to seek tenders on the management of the centre after being told that that was the best option. Having now sought tenders Council is also looking to employ a Aquatic and Arts Contract Coordinator - Fixed Term to June 2024 ($93,354.21 to $99,879.78 gross per annum) to coordinate the ongoing performance of the new Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre, the Narooma Swimming Centre and the Moruya War Memorial Pool contract/s, "ensuring the community receives quality service and best value for money". The only business case of the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre available to the public forecasts an annual loss for the theatre of $350,000 and this loss is based on the venue presenting a theatre/ event season consisting of 12 productions over 12 months with two sets of hiring rates: Community @$700 per day and Standard/Commercial @$800. For the purpose of budget analysis the business case says the following criteria was used: • 12 productions • 55% of capacity sold for each performance at an average ticket price of $35 full and $22 concession of the total sold 30% full price and 25% concession. And these figures were for a 500 seat theatre. Council decided to go against the recommendations of its own 2013 study that found a minimum of 500 seats is required to attract shows that are commercially viable. They also decided to go against expert advice from David Maclachlan: President of Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber, who addressed Council on May 28th 2019. "I do not believe the people of the Shire will reconcile the new Arts centre becoming a glorified community centre. The community expects Council to provide what they set out to provide, and that is an iconic arts facility which would provide significant entertainment and not be a white elephant.
The Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber has always said the new Arts centre at McKay park needs sufficient seating capacity and open space capacity to be multi-use, relevant and limit being a burden to the ratepayer.
Unfortunately, when a design is born out of benchmarking loss making Local Government run centres then the notion of reducing capacity to mitigate loss becomes OK, when in fact the opposite is true.
Almost 2 years ago I made public comments that 500 seats was small and would not attract national acts and would have difficulty attracting popular acts. I said the venue could not expect to see shows such as the Wiggles. My comments were publicly negated by the Mayor who made reference to my Wiggles comment in a Bay Post article. The new Arts centre design has now been reduced to a size that will definitely not hold the Wiggles or national acts, nor trade shows, nor large format events such as multiple Choirs and exhibitions. The new arts centre is now too small to be leased or privately managed due to lack of financially viable seating capacity or open space, thus increasing rate payer burden.
If Council decides to sell the Batemans Bay Community Centre, then Council needs to reset peoples expectations about the new Arts centre and its purpose as it will no longer be a destination venue."
Above: The layout of the Bay Pavilions aptly resembles 'Bill the Steam Shovel' and it is now widely considered that Council has grossly underestimated how much it will cost to keep "Bill" working and how much "Bill" might bring in.
Above: The Office of Local Government even communicated their concerns to Council two weeks before they committed to the project. This communication was not passed on to Councillors before they voted. On May 25th 2021 Council adopted the name of Bay Pavilions for the whole complex, giving the two bodies of the "Bill The Steamshovel" shaped structure the names "Aquatic Pavilion" (that includes the Gurangadj water slides) and the "Arts Pavilion" And, like "Bill The Steamshovel" , it is expected that there will need to be a continual feed of subsidies contributed by all of the shires ratepayers, from north to south, to keep the facility open. The "Arts Pavilion" will now only house a 350 seat theatre, four meeting rooms and a foyer gallery. Council recently sought, by tender, someone to manage and operate the whole complex with the option to also include in the tender the management and operation of Moruya War Memorial and Narooma Swimming Centre. The Management tender details identified the whole centre as available, listing: - an indoor aquatic centre with a 25-metre, eight-lane pool with ramp access, separate 10-metre warm water pool, freeform indoor leisure pool that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas, water play splash pads, waterslides, gym, group fitness and wellness area - an arts and cultural centre with large flexible, flat floor auditorium with retractable seating for 350 people, dressing rooms, green room and storage, gallery/exhibition space and storage, rehearsal/dance studio/music room, wet arts workshop space and storage, dry arts workshop space and storage, meeting and multi-purpose rooms - shared facilities including a foyer, cafe, visitor information service, administration offices, plant and support services. Additionally it offered the Moruya War Memorial Pool with its outdoor heated 25m pool and kiosk and the Narooma Swimming Centre with its indoor heated 50m pool, outdoor water play area and kiosk. Council were hoping for a single tenderer to run the entire operation, possibly running a sublease on the gymnasium and cafe. Council maintain that the business case for the Bay Pavilions that projects incomes and operation expenditures is Commercial in Confidence until the management tender contracts are signed. As such the community are unable to scrutinise the rationale behind any cost or overhead projections. Presently Council have on exhibition their Draft Fees and Charges that include the 2021/2022 pool entry fees. The Bay Pavillion entry fees are not included as these will be determined by the new Management. If Council can not find a contract manager for the theatre then the expected 12 productions per year will not be booked and the revenue will not be forthcoming. The theatre space was an idea put forward Perfex with their vision "To bring to completion the construction of a centre for the performing and visual arts, to meet the current and future needs of the Batemans Bay Community" Just to the north of the new Yuin 350 seat theatre Council is calling for expressions of interest to develop the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. Council is marketing the land as ideal for tourist accommodation, conference facilities, restaurants and cafes, and residential accommodation. The original justification for the theatre space in the new Arts Pavillion was that "there are limited venues of the size/ capacity and quality to host larger local events or to attract professional touring products or larger professional conferences/ exhibitions to Batemans Bay" and "Multi-purpose, flexible and scalable spaces that allow for longer term and local production at a lower cost are needed". It now appears that Council intends to go into competition with itself and have two competing conference/exhibition centres side by side.