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Outside operator to run Wolverhampton Civic Halls when it finally reopens

By Joe Sweeney | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Leisure bosses at Wolverhampton Council are looking to appoint an external operator to run the city’s Civic Halls when it reopens in autumn 2021.

An artist's impression of how the refurbished Wolverhampton Civic Hall will look. Photo: Wolverhampton Council

Council leader Ian Brookfield confirmed the city’s cabinet had approved plans to negotiate with promoters in the fields of live music, entertainment and sports to attract names to the venue.

A report to the council recommended it as the best way to maximise revenue and attract bigger acts and audiences following the halls’ refurbishment.

It was revealed recently that developers Willmott Dixon Interiors had been awarded the contract to undertake redevelopment work on the historic 81-year-old building – which also includes the adjoining Wulfrun Hall – after initial contractors Shaylor went bust.

The first Civic Hall contractor Shaylor went bust in July

At £38.1 million, the restoration of the halls is set to cost four times the original budget and take five years longer than planned.

'Wash its face'

Councillor Brookfield said: "This is an ideal way for the Civic Halls project to ‘wash its face’ after all that has gone before. And it’s also a way of making an excellent return to help the venue pay for itself.

“It will be bigger and better than ever, and I am delighted to let the people of Wolverhampton – and those who visit from further afield – know that we will be able to bring back all the major annual events the venue is known for, such as the darts broadcast live by Sky and some of the biggest bands and comedians in the world.

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How the Civic Hall looked before the refurbishment started

“And of course, with this latest development we will be ideally placed to attract a variety of internationally acclaimed acts. We will still retain ownership of the venue as a council, but instead have an external contractor running it.

“We are leaving no stone unturned and exploring every option to make this a world-class entertainment centre for the city of Wolverhampton."

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Councillor Harman Banger, cabinet member for city economy, said: “It is important we look at all the options in terms of how the transformed Civic Halls are operated when they reopen.

“The works will make the halls a world-class venue, enabling them to attract significantly more popular and prestigious entertainment acts, while retaining the current characteristics that make them popular with performers, producers and audiences.

“The halls are an important part of our visitor economy and the reopening and the successful operation of them will reap big rewards in terms of jobs and economic benefit for the city.”

The operator options will now be further assessed in parallel to the ongoing refurbishment and improvement works.

Contractor Willmott Dixon is currently carrying out structural, engineering and electrical works, before a second balcony is added to the Civic Hall and a balcony is put in at Wulfrun Hall to provide additional seating.

The height above the stage to the rear of the Civic Hall will also be increased to attract bigger shows.

Additional improvements include new seats, bigger bars, revamped toilets, lift access to the new balconies, better disabled access and a new air conditioning system.

Once the work is completed, the combined capacity for both venues will be more than 4,500 people when set up for standing or around 3,000 people when set up for seating.

Joe Sweeney

By Joe Sweeney
@JoeSweeneyLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Wolverhampton.

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