An upgrade solution, business case and estimated cost for Wollongong Entertainment Centre has been ignored by successive NSW Liberal and Nationals Government for nearly seven years, according to the Member for Wollongong, Paul Scully, and Wollongong City Council Deputy Lord Mayor, Tania Brown.
A draft business case which includes a $28 million upgrade plan for the Wollongong Entertainment Centre, has been available to the NSW Government since it was first drafted for Venues NSW in July 2013.
The business case notes that:
“The priority of the service need hinges on the current inability to realise the estimated $99.97 million of economic and social benefits available to the Illawarra from the convention, conference and exhibition market and increasing risk the WIN Entertainment Centre to meet client demand, due to deterioration of the current entertainment and convention assets, together with increasing demand, in Wollongong and the Illawarra.”
It also notes:
“The Turnkey Report provided evidence that an upgrade of the WIN Entertainment Centre could deliver a state-of-the-art Convention Centre with a compelling Benefit Cost Ratio.”
The business case also comments on the lack of investment in the Centre, noting:
“A ten year capital investment strategic plan identified that a lack of maintenance funding has resulted in a significant capital injection being required to maintain its existing service delivery capacity.
“The result is a deteriorating building that currently only meets its recurrent operating costs, without capacity to enable reinvestment in this ageing building.”
Mr Scully said that it is clear that the only thing that has been holding back the upgrade is the wilful neglect of the WEC by successive Liberal Premiers.
“The draft business case prepared nearly a decade ago outlines a litany of problems and provides an upgrade solution – a solution that could have been delivered at a fraction of the cost that it will take to implement it today.
“I am yet to hear back from the Acting Minister as to whether he will accept my invitation to tour the Centre, to publicly release the master plan that has been sitting on his desk for nearly a year and to fund the detailed design work in the June 2020 Budget.
“But I remain hopeful that he will see the need for an upgrade if he takes the time to examine the evidence”, Mr Scully said.
Cr Tania Brown said that while there had been some improvements to the Centre since the secret business case was prepared key elements remain largely untouched such as the replacement of chairs, improvements to toilets, technology upgrades and physical improvements to make it a venue fit for a city the size and importance of Wollongong.
“Had the then O’Farrell Government taken notice of this we would have had an upgraded entertainment centre, more car parking, a boost to economic activity and more local jobs.
“Sadly, Premier O’Farrell and every Premier since has chosen to ignore our needs”, Cr Brown said.
Mr Scully and Cr Brown said that there was strong support for an upgrade across the community noting that the Illawarra Business Chamber has included the upgrade in its 2020 NSW Budget submission publicly released earlier this week.
“The Wollongong community stands united in its desire to have the Entertainment Centre upgraded. The only thing standing in our way is the unwillingness of the NSW Government to take the needs of NSW’s third largest city seriously”, Mr Scully said.