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The Nelson Photo News



Trafalgar Centre: A White Elephant?

This is What the Trafalgar Centre will Look Like from the Front

Amid controversy, an abortive attempt to hold a referendum, and, even at this late stage, a recommendation for a new site, the Nelson City Council is pressing ahead with the $400,000 Trafalgar Centre.

What is the Trafalgar Centre? How was it conceived? Who will use it and is it necessary? These are questions being asked by many Nelsonians. They are questions being asked now - not several years ago when the project was in its infancy.

Opposition to the centre has come from many people and the most organised attempt at halting or postponing the scheme to confront the City Council was a petition containing 2097 names. The petition asked the Council to defer the centre until the essential and necessary works in the city are completed.

But chairman of the centre committee, Brian Mills, said to defer the centre was to destroy it. And he was probably right.

During one of the many Council meetings at which the centre was discussed, Mayor Trevor Horne said if the Council did not proceed with the centre $175,000 in public subscriptions would be lost, as would $30,000 from the Golden Kiwi and the $40,000 which was already committed. That would make a gross loss of $245,000.

Few people, he also said, realised that work on all other major essential works was being programmed to proceed and they were not affected in any way by the centre project.

What is the centre? The basic concept is a large hall with rooms down the side with facilities for catering, showers and dressing rooms and a large supper room. It is modelled on the Rotorua Sportsdrome which impressed a three-man fact-finding party which toured the North Island in 1965. Members of the trio were Brian Mills, the Mayor at that time (Mr D. N. Strawbridge) and the Public Relations Officer, Sean O'Hagan. Mr Mills is the only member of the group still associated with the project. "We were impressed with the Rotorua Sportsdrome but considered the Trafalgar Centre could be better. It would be modelled on the sportsdrome but with some improvements", said Mr Mills.

For that reason, suggestions that Nelson purchase from Rotorua's City Council the plans of the sportsdrome were considered useless. Opponents argue that facilities to be provided by the centre are now of no use. The three Y.M.C.A.s-Richmond, Stoke and Nelson-the new basketball stadium built by the Nelson Indoor Basketball Association at Stoke, and other halls in the area, they say, more than fulfil what would have been the centre's prime role-catering for sports bodies.

But Mr Mills is confident that within three years the centre will be making an operating profit.

Suggested charges, and they are cheap compared with other areas, are: A per capita charge of 20 cents a head or a standard rental of $3 an hour for sports bodies. Conferences would be charged $21 a day.

Mr Mills told a public meeting the cost of the project would be well under $400,000 but could not give an exact figure as tenders were still being received.

Tenders were due to close on February 26, and they were to have been for the first three stages of the four-stage construction. All sections except the supper room at the end of the hall are in those three stages. The centre is going ahead and it is unlikely that the site will be changed. When it's completed, Nelsonians will probably be proud of their city's acquisition.

But let's hope it is not another Sydney Opera House effort!