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Felixstowe: Theatre bids extended

Due to the level of interest shown in taking over the running of Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion the formal tender process has been extended until Noon on Monday, June 18 for the submission of detailed business plans from those who have registered an interest in this project.

Once the tender process closes next week, a full appraisal of the received documents will be carried out prior to a report being made to Cabinet in July for it to decide the next steps forward.

Innovative ideas from leisure and entertainment companies from across the country were sought for the Suffolk Coastal-owned building as the Council attempts to secure an exciting and long-term future for the Spa as a leisure and entertainment venue that is both financially self-supporting and attractive to both local residents and visitors to the resort

It could continue as a theatre, but equally the Council was open to firm and viable proposals that would see a change of use to develop the building as an attraction that would see the crowds return in large numbers.

Suffolk Coastal agreed earlier this year to end its contract with the Spa’s current managers Openwide Coastal at the end of 2012. The Council decided it could no longer afford to give the necessary long-term financial commitment to the theatre, which currently receives around £250,000 a year and which needs at least £3 million in maintenance and improvements to bring it up to modern standards.

Consultants brought in by the Council had concluded that if no major investments are made the Spa will quickly become unfit for purpose and that the building is already out of date. Audiences at the Spa have been falling to a degree that each ticket was being subsidised by the Council by well over £7.

The Spa is set to stay open until after Christmas and has a packed and varied range of attractions taking to its stage over the coming months including the Felixstowe Drama Festival and the Summer Youth Project, with an exciting programme of events. For full details visit www.thespapavilion.org/

“Despite the best efforts of Openwide, we are faced with a theatre that is struggling to attract break-even audiences, and a pressing need to both invest in the fabric of the building and in its operating costs that this Council is not in a position to agree to,” said Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Economic Development.

“We had no choice other than to open up the prospect of running the Spa in the future to the market, to find out what leisure or entertainment proposals and potential investment outside companies and organisations may come up with. Those that have officially expressed an interest now have another week to submit their formal business plans,” added Cllr Holdcroft.

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