Trafalgar Centre is now closed.

Trafalgar Centre closed, now what?

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A damning engineering report could spell the end for Nelson’s only major indoor events centre, but the city’s mayor is adamant if it does go it will be replaced.

Nelson City Council announced on Friday that the Trafalgar Centre would close immediately after a report it commissioned stated the loss of life in the centre would be “high” if there was a moderate earthquake.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese says that left the council with little option but to close the centre. “The risk of loss of life is high. The only appropriate response to managing this risk is to close the centre to public use immediately.”

Now the immediate focus for the community is: where to from here?

A decision on the future of the centre, which was built in the early 1970s, and received a $7 million upgrade in 2009, will be made early next year with the council to discuss it as early as this Thursday at an urgent meeting. The options are to strengthen the centre at varying costs depending on the strength, or pulling it down and rebuilding a new centre at a new location.

Rachel confirmed it would be highly unlikely for a new centre to be built on the existing land if they made the call for the Trafalgar Centre to come down. That is because if it did come down part of the reason would be due to the land being prone to liquefaction in the event of an earthquake.

But she said there is still a long way to go before any decisions about the centre’s future will be made. “There’s been a significant investment in the building over the past ten years so to walk away from that would be a pretty hard call. We’d have to have some sound engineering reasons to do that and another location [to build on] because we have to have an events centre in central Nelson in my view, it’s essential.”

The cost to strengthen the Trafalgar Centre could range from $2 million to $30 million.

The centre over the past year has hosted music concerts, basketball, netball and volleyball games, expos, dinners, trade shows and conferences. It is the only venue in Nelson able to accommodate many of those activities.

Rachel says the decision means event organisers have some certainty and the council will work with groups who have booked the centre to help them find another venue.

The Nelson Giants – which has been based at the Trafalgar Centre since the 1980s – says it will relocate to Saxton Stadium for the 2014 season, which will need to set up some temporary seating.

The closure is also likely to spell the end of the proposed Joseph Parker boxing fight that was scheduled for March next year and could force trade shows and expos to other venues or out of the city. The Canterbury Tactix netball team was also due to play two games in the Trafalgar Centre next year and the popular Mayors’ Christmas Dinner has now been moved to the Nelson College Hall.

Although the impact of the closure will be huge on the community, Rachel says deciding what to do next will be more “challenging”.

“My personal view is that the events centre needs to be in central Nelson. It’s absolutely critical that it remains in the vicinity of the Trafalgar Centre or if not, closer to the CBD. Saxton Stadium is an interim option only.”

She says there are other earthquake prone buildings in Nelson that don’t need to close but the fact the Trafalgar Centre has a large span, is sitting on land prone to liquefaction and has a capacity of just under 4000 people made its “risk profile” unique, which meant the council had to act.