A FEASIBILITY study into reopening the Gateway Theatre has been commissioned by the group which took over when it closed in 2007.
Chester Performs will examine the viability of reopening the theatre which closed in anticipation of a replacement performing arts centre being delivered as part of the Northgate Development regeneration scheme which has now stalled.
The report will also assess other options for creating a temporary performing arts venue.
Chester Performs was founded to provide an arts programme to fill the void left by the Gateway closure. It is funded from the same sources which used pay for the theatre.
The feasibility study will be carried out by a firm of independent theatre experts and is to be commissioned by Chester Performs on behalf of the city council. It is expected that the consultants will be appointed next week and the study will be complete in January.
Chester Perform’s project manager, Andrew Bentley, insists the study will be impartial.
He said: “There are clearly a lot of different opinions out there about what is possible or desirable, and a healthy debate about what to do next.
“One thing however is absolutely certain – public opinion dictates that we cannot wait for years on end to have somewhere that is perfect, so we are going to try to develop a temporary option to see us through and, at the same time, enjoy some great nights out.
“The Gateway is clearly an option and this study will test that thoroughly and independently..”
He says the board of Chester Performs is determined the long-term goal must be to deliver a world class permanent solution.
“There is a danger, and we must be really vigilant about this, that we lose sight of the real aim – namely to produce an iconic venue that will become a catalyst for economic and cultural renaissance in Chester.
“Gateshead’s Sage Centre opened in 2005 and created 539 jobs and contributed £14m to the region in its first year, and another £29m in terms of conferencing.
“We may not think quite as big, but the new venue needs to be as important to Chester’s economy as the Sage is to Gateshead. We should stick to that test.”