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Tenders open for city concert hall but Govt wary on funding

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The State Government is forging ahead with its bid to build an acoustic concert hall in Adelaide, releasing a tender to determine whether a new venue could boost jobs and attract more international students – despite Treasurer Rob Lucas warning that the project could be “very difficult” to fund.

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A new concert hall build was flagged in the State Government’s 2019-2024 Arts and Culture Plan, released in September, which recommended a new acoustic venue to serve as a home for the Adelaide Symphony and Youth orchestras, and act as a hub for music education in the state.

The Government this month released an open public tender to develop an “initial scoping study” determining the viability and vision of the proposed venue.

According to the tender documents, a “long list of ideas has emerged” about the benefits of a concert hall, including its potential to boost music careers, attract more international students, and serve as a hub for music research.

The documents state the scoping study will also examine oversees concert halls, and determine whether a new South Australian venue could be managed by a governance board “with significant State Government involvement” similar to the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority or the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust.

A report is due back within ten weeks of the successful applicant signing the tender.

InDaily asked Premier and Arts Minister Steven Marshall’s office how much the scoping study would cost, when it envisioned a concert hall could be built and whether the Government would seek Federal Government funding support.

In response, a spokesperson said the tender was released in line with the Government’s Arts and Culture Plan.

“The work will include consultation with key stakeholders to understand the need for a new Concert Hall, and may ultimately feed into a strategic business case,” the spokesperson said.

It comes after the Government announced there would be delays to the construction of the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital, while a mooted city sports stadium has been put on the back-burner due to COVID-19’s budget impact.

Treasurer Rob Lucas told InDaily this morning that the Government was unable to afford a $1.3 billion covered inner-city sports stadium “in the immediate future” due to ballooning debt, but it was prepared to spend a “very small” comparable amount to commission a business case for a concert hall.

“There’s been no commitment by the Premier or indeed anyone else that we’re going to build a hall by such and such a date and at such and such a cost,” he said.

“If Infrastructure SA says this is a great idea and the Government agrees it’s a great idea, well then the Government has to decide when it might be able to fund the proposal.

“If it’s a significant sum of money then in the immediate future it’s going to be very difficult.”

Lucas said he was unsure how much the concert hall scoping study would cost.

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra managing director Vince Ciccarello has long-called for the State Government to invest in a concert hall, telling InDaily previously that the orchestra’s most regular performance venue, the Adelaide Town Hall, placed the ASO at a disadvantage as it had inadequate capacity and facilities.

Ciccarello has also called for the proposed concert hall to be “much more than just a high-quality auditorium for classical and orchestral music”, providing music education and community services “to become a home of music in South Australia”.

According to the Department for Premier and Cabinet: “insights to date highlight that it’s (the proposed concert hall) not just about a new venue; it’s about the model and what it can support and bring for the community”.

DPC told InDaily in March that the Government was yet to determine potential sites for a concert hall.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor has expressed interest in building a concert hall in the city, citing the Casa da Música music house in Porto, Portugal – a modern polygon-shaped building built in 2006 to house the Porto National Orchestra, the Baroque Orchestra and the Remix Ensemble – as inspiration.

An underground, three-level concert hall was once included in early plans for Lot Fourteen at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, but it has since been removed.

Other potential sites for a concert hall that have been flagged by local architects include Elder Park and Botanic Park.

The State Government earlier this month officially opened the $66 million redeveloped Her Majesty’s Theatre featuring state-of-the-art facilities and an increased capacity of 1467 seats over three levels.

However, the stage dimensions of Her Majesty’s make it unsuitable for full-scale orchestra performances.

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