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Conference organisers reject Orange Function Centre, even with $4 million upgrade

May 15, 2023

Orange Function Centre. Supplied.

By Peter Holmes


More than $4 million is required to repair, renovate and spruce up Orange Function Centre, according to an Orange City Council staff report to councillors.



But even if this money was spent, the venue would only remain useful for community events, and would not be able to handle conferences or most major entertainment attractions.



Built in 1965, the Orange Function Centre is well beyond its prime, and requires massive investment to restore some of its faded glory and bring it into the 21st century.


It lacks good quality acoustics, and modern kitchen and bathroom facilities.



There are also concerns about asbestos and other hazardous building materials.


The laundry list of requirements runs to several pages and includes:


  • Replacement of 50-year-old roof coverings - $650,000;

  • New kitchens (currently “aged and in poor condition … equipment is very old”) - $450,000;

  • Bar refurbishment - $200,000;

  • Paint works, new ceilings, floor coverings, lighting and “some management of asbestos materials” - $550,000;

  • Rooftop air conditioning units (“near end of commercial life”) - $225,000;

  • Audio system and hearing loop - $150,000;

  • Facade - $150,000;

  • Windows and doors - $175,000;

  • Toilets - $250,000;

  • Auditorium lighting - $150,000;

  • Asbestos management - $250,000;

  • Improve accessibility - $115,000.


Council staff stated that some of these expenditures, including windows, facade and toilets, are of “lower priority”.



If $4 million was invested into the Orange Function Centre, the report to councillors stated it would be on the understanding that it wouldn’t transform the function centre into anything more than a venue for “flat floor-style events and meeting the community need, rather than performing arts or corporate need”.



Council staff held a meeting with seven “key stakeholders in the field of businesses, organisations and government departments which routinely organise large conference events” and the reviews weren’t glowing.


A NAIDOC events in October 2022 at Orange Function Centre. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“The feedback from this group was that while the Function Centre had a role as a community hall, it wasn’t suitable as a conference space for corporate events as it isn’t fit for purpose as a ‘function centre’.



“It was felt the current building lacked contemporary AV [audio visual] equipment and the kitchens were no longer fit for commercial purposes. There was a lack of break-out spaces for small group work.”

And, such was the echo, “organisations choose not to use it or recommend it as a conference venue”.


The council reports stated that the seven stakeholders “saw a need in Orange for a larger, more versatile function space that can hold 500-600 people”.




“It was also a contemporary requirement that a conference venue could offer several smaller 100 seat breakout rooms.”




The report said the stakeholders “pointed out that government policies prevent some conferences being held in centres with gaming facilities”.

Organisers of contemporary conferences also require that the venue has a sizable foyer area, with high set ceiling throughout the venue, enabling adequate AV and staging capabilities.


Google Street View.


When the building was constructed in the mid-1960s, asbestos materials were commonly used.

According to council the building contains several asbestos materials and other hazardous building materials:


  • Asbestos - Fibre cement material (ceilings, walls, eaves throughout – approx. 2,000m2), asbestos insulation board (perforated boards on ceilings and main wing areas), fire door cores (3 units identified) and bituminous electrical backing boards (2 units identified);

  • Synthetic mineral fibre (SMF) - ceiling insulation (loose fill/batt materials), Air conditioning ductwork insulation in the ceiling space, minor plant internal insulation (e.g. hot water heaters);

  • Polychlorinated biphenyls - The majority of the asbestos containing material is in a fair-good condition, and most surfaces are painted. (i.e. sealed). Based on the current condition of the materials, the vast majority of the asbestos/hazardous materials do not require removal, however will require ongoing management.




Under the sub-heading of “Further Considerations”, council staff stated:


“The recommendation of this report has been assessed against Council’s other key risk categories and the following comments are provided:


Service/Project Delivery

Risk that operation of the Orange Function Centre will be compromised


Reputation

Council’s image and reputation will be damaged should there be an adverse incident at the Function Centre and it becomes inoperable.


People

Risk to staff, contractors, visitors and members of the public.”


The staff recommendation to councillors is that they “Support the primary use of the Orange Function Centre to be for community-style events [and] Consider allocation of funding for works as described in the report in future budgets”.



Events booked at the Orange Function Centre in 2023 include The Wiggles, Stars of Orange, eisteddfods, a trade expo, Orange High School Grad and NAIDOC celebrations.


The Function Centre can accommodate various levels of patronage depending on the style of the event.


"The capacity for a seated function with a dance floor can cater for 600-650 people, a cocktail event can cater for 800-1,000 people and a schools performance with people seating in rows can cater for 800 people," the report stated.


Do you support council spending $4 million on Orange Function Centre?

  • 0%Yes

  • 0%No



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