Felixstowe: Deal for Spa Pavilion could be done next month – venue to reopen next Easter

The Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe.

The Spa Pavilion at Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion theatre could reopen for business by Easter next year, it has been revealed today.

Council chiefs say talks with a potential new operator for the 892-seater venue are progressing extremely well and contracts could be signed next month.

As yet, details of the preferred bidder negotiating with Suffolk Coastal council remain secret and will only be revealed once the deal is complete.

However, it has been confirmed that the intention of the bidder is to re-energise and relaunch the Spa Pavilion as a theatre venue, along with a refurbished restaurant and other services.

District council cabinet member for planning Geoff Holdcroft said: “The Spa Pavilion project remains on course to provide a solution that will see the venue reopen by Easter 2015.

“I expect to be able to announce the new operator during late autumn/early winter and we are currently in the final process of agreeing heads of terms.

“I remain cautiously optimistic that we will be able to sign off these off, subject to contract completion, during October.”

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The theatre has been closed since January 2013 after the council decided it would no longer finance the £240,000 annual subsidy or stump up the £8million needed – according to the council’s own consultants – to bring the theatre up to scratch and parted company with then operator Openwide Coastal.

Specialist agents Jones Lang LaSalle were brought in to market the seafront building with councillors happy for it to be sold, or even demolished to make way for a new seaside attraction.

It was suitable for a “wide range of tourism, resort, and leisure activities that would make the site a ‘destination’ in its own right” – and these could include holiday accommodation on the upper floors, and also possibly a hi-tech lift that would enable the development to be accessed from the clifftops.

After some initial bids, including one from a community group of theatre users and supporters, which was rejected, there was little fresh interest for many months.

However, the possibility of it reopening as a theatre has been widely welcomed and for the past five months talks have been taking place with the preferred bidder finalising a business case and working towards agreeing terms.

Mr Holdcroft has said all along he is optimistic the Spa can reopen and described negotiations as “very positive and promising”.

There will also be a need for some some improvement works ahead of the new operator taking over and removal of the security grilles on the doors and windows, and this will be done during the winter months.

There has been a place of entertainment on the Spa site since 1907 and the current building dates from 1950 when it was rebuilt after suffering war damage. Over the years, it has played host to big bands, rock and roll, musicals, comedy, drama, dance spectaculars, opera, ballet, household names to local amateur performers, traditional seaside shows to panto and a wide range of community events.

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