FAQs - Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre

About the Project

Why do we need a performing arts and convention centre?

Busselton is the Events Capital of WA. It is also one of the State’s most visited regions and one of Australia’s key growth regional centres yet we do not have an indoor events venue. Events are held in marquees and hardly at all in winter. We are missing out on big name acts, a wide variety of performances and the ability to attract and cater for large conventions.  

Event related tourism is one of the City of Busselton’s major economic strategies that is sustaining and creating jobs. Each year our brand as the Events Capital strengthens as more and more people look for a reason to visit.

When will construction start?

Construction will start in February 2022. The Weld Theatre and the Cultural Precinct (except for the ArtGeo Gallery) will remain operating during construction works and City officers are working closely with those affected to minimise impact.

Why has the project changed in scope (and cost) during the design phase?

The original concept design submitted as part of the successful Federal Government business case in 2019 costed the project at $21.23m. This was based on a Cultural Needs Assessment report in 2012 which identified the requirement for a 300 seat theatre in the district. Council accepted this report as a guide to future planning. A construction budget of $20 – $22m was identified for the future theatre at that time. This did not include separate multi-purpose room facilities, a new gallery or significant commercial lease space.

The business case did note that additional function space, along with the potential for bar and additional dining space, could be provided at a later stage. After further research with other national Performing Arts and Convention Centres the importance of a variety of multi-functional spaces was determined and these features were included in the scope. Other key changes included increasing the seating capacity to 651 seats (due to population growth forecasts) and to improve sightlines, relocating the gallery and making it bigger and resolving disability access issues.

The total project cost including design, construction, fit out and an additional Creative Industries Hub was agreed at $30.3million. In accordance with Council’s resolution 24 June 2020 (C2006/066), the project budget and scope was reduced from $30.3m to $28.5m with the Creative Industries Hub removed.

In June 2021, three tenders were received, all came in well over the anticipated budget due to construction market conditions, where high demand and prices for materials and trades have been significantly inflated by COVID recovery economic stimulus initiatives. Steel, concrete and timber prices rose significantly, all of which are major components of the facility design.

Ways in which to reduce cost were explored including a modified design and further community consultation took place. After careful consideration Council determined to proceed with construction of the BPACC on the basis of the current and previously tendered design, to a maximum construction contract value of $38 million and a total project value of $44.5 million, inclusive of consultant costs, fit out and landscaping, and a contingency provision of $3 million, necessary for a project of this size.

What does the BPACC include?

The BPACC will provide the South West with an iconic venue of quality, contemporary design and the latest technologies for arts, dance, music, community hire, conference, trade shows, conventions and events. It includes:

  • 651 seat auditorium, spacious foyer and pop up bar facilities.
  • A class art gallery designed as a flexible space to cater for the broadest feasible range of exhibition requirements, including 135m2 traditional white box exhibition space and 42m2 black box exhibition space (can be used in traditional or black room digital exhibition configuration).
  • Studio/rehearsal room adjoins two multipurpose rooms with views to the bay which can open up into one large space of 546m2 to provide a separate banquet area for approximately 400 seated.
  • 192m2 courtyard for outdoor exhibitions, events and an alfresco area for functions and the commercial bar to serve out into.
  • A loading bay from Adelaide Street will service the entire building including the Weld Theatre which will also have access to the dressing and green rooms in the new development.

 

Community Benefits and Involvement 

What are the positive returns to the community?

This project will:

  • Create local jobs – 115 during construction and 44 through its operations.
  • Inject an additional $6.6m annually into the local economy.
  • Create new markets for business in convention, conferences, trade shows, the arts and creative industries, which increase local spend.
  • Diversify the City of Busselton’s event offerings.
  • Fill the gap in indoor venues with capacity that can reach over 1000 to service the winter and shoulder seasons.
  • Broaden the horizons and prospects for our youth.
  • Add to established visitor attractions. 
  • Provide opportunities for aboriginal cultural experiences, supporting job creation and increased recognition of the value of our rich First Nation’s heritage.
  • Supports increased educational and training opportunities.
  • Attract touring art exhibitions of National and potentially international acclaim.
  • Enliven the Cultural Precinct, connecting the CBD and foreshore, providing an economic catalyst for extended trading and business viability - kick starting a night time economy.
  • Enrich the lives of the community and its visitors by increasing the spectrum of quality arts and culture events.
  • Improving lives with social benefits associated with this project valued at $7m.
  • Provide opportunities for the region’s bourgeoning creative sector and a home for local artistic, cultural, educational groups and individuals.

What has been the level of community involvement?

Community engagement on this project extends back to 2008. Visit the document page (below) to view a timeline of engagement and decision making associated with the BPACC.

BPACC Documents

 

Financials 

What will it cost to build?

Council accepted a tender for the project from Broad Construction Pty Ltd at a construction contract value of just under $38 million.

How will construction be funded?

The project received a $10.35m funding commitment from the Federal Government in 2019 and in 2021 an additional $1.97 million. Funds received through the sale of the old Library building site in Mitchell Park Busselton ($2.6m) will be directed to the project. Rio Tinto have committed $250,000 and the City continues to explore other private sector and State Government funding opportunities.

Current loan borrowings for the project are set at $15 million. Due to the increase in construction costs, the City anticipates it may need to borrow an additional $11.7 million. With interest rates at a low 2% they can be fixed for a term of 20 years.

Borrowings could be also be reduced through increases to fees and charges or rates, or use of cash reserves held by the City, of which there is a current balance of $62.8 million.

What will drive revenue?

Once established the BPACC is forecast to generate revenue of $1.5m to $2m per annum. Income sources include theatre and facility rentals, business events including conference room bookings, commercial leases and gallery exhibitions. Other income sources include sponsorship and membership. Annual expected revenue and operating costs have been benchmarked against similar regional centres and are considered feasible.

What will it cost to run?

Nearly every facility the City runs, from leisure centres, libraries and even our parks and sporting grounds all cost the rate payer. People also expect to use them at heavily subsidised rates. However, these investments are what make where we live so great and these facilities aren’t usually viewed by the community in terms of how much they cost but how much they bring benefit. 

Over the next 10 years the estimated annual cost to operate the BPACC is around $1.2 - $1.5 million per-annum, including asset management costs and provisions for asset renewal. This is similar to the cost of operating the Geographe Leisure Centre and less than our libraries, which cost $1.95 million each year to operate. The BPACC is considered a valuable investment in culture, the arts, the wellbeing and future of our community.

Is the City in a financially strong enough position to take on more debt?

The City has the borrowing capacity to more than adequately service the required loan amount while maintaining the appropriate benchmarks debt ratios. To ensure the City’s debt remains within an acceptable level, the Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) is required to remain above the minimum standard of 2.0. The impact of the total projected borrowings on the City’s DSCR is depicted in the graph below, demonstrating the City’s borrowing capacity.  The graph below clearly highlights the City’s ability to remain well above the minimum standard, and from year 2028/29 exceed the highest standard.

What will be the impact on my rates?

In the absence of any other funding, an additional rate increase of up to 2% may be necessary to fund the borrowings, most likely applied over 3 years and taking rate increases from projected increases of 2.5% (22/23), 2.95% (23/24) and 2.95% (24/25) to 3.5% in each of those years.  Based on the average rent per annum, a 1% increase equates to $18 per annum. 

 

Convention/ Conference Facility 

What is the convention/conference aspect of the building and why is it needed?

There have been calls to remove the “convention” part of the building to reduce cost. There are no separate, dedicated conference facilities in the BPACC but there is the rehearsal/studio space, auditorium and two multipurpose rooms on level two which can be used for conferences and convention spaces instead of, or in addition to, the auditorium and foyer areas, dependent on the hirers needs. Every room has been designed to be as versatile and multi-functional as possible.

A South West Business Events Strategy has been drafted by Australia’s South West. The strategy has identified the significant role business events play in building a stronger, more productive and diverse economy.

Is there still a need for the convention centre component in a post Covid-19 world?

The Business Events Strategy isn’t predicated on interstate/international business events however over time the aim is to build this market as the region gains access to direct interstate visitation through the airport and COVID-19 controls and impacts reduce. The industry has forecast that as restrictions begin to ease around Australia, the recovery of the business events industry will be led by domestic activity, by businesses and organisations forced to hold events at home. 

 

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