Political Press

By Jamie Strange, Member of Parliament

Hamilton Hotel’s Last Hurrah, Letter from the Queen, CBD Awards, Regional Theatre Update

I had the pleasure of attending the Hamilton Central Business District (CBD) Awards at the Hamilton Hotel.

It was an opportunity to celebrate local businesses and honour the key people who help our city thrive.

Earlier this year, Hamilton CBD General Manager Vanessa Williams, formed the idea of hosting the 2018 instalment at the historic Hamilton Hotel, a building that had been closed for many years.

While the hotel was a showpiece in its day, it was currently dilapidated and closed to visitors.

With the approval of building owners the Plaw family, the building was transformed to create a quality, artistic space for 200 guests to mingle and celebrate together.

Doormen in top hats and tails warmly greeted the guests, and a 1930s band performed period music. The event was a glamorous occasion, fitting for the history of the building.

In 1953, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh stayed in the Hamilton Hotel during their 1953 Commonwealth Tour.

The 96 year old heritage building on Victoria Street showed some of its former sparkle and glamour for the Awards, before it is set to be repurposed as part of the wider development site for the new Waikato Regional Theatre.

Many features of the current hotel will be retained, including the facade. The theatre is on track to be built over the coming years, and is due to open mid-2021, with Momentum Waikato on target to complete the project within its $75 million budget.

The 1300-seat theatre was approved by Hamilton City Council in June. Over 68 per cent of funding has been confirmed, with another 27 per cent designated as “highly probable”, leaving only 5 per cent of funding outstanding.

Remaining funds will be sought from Central Government through the Provincial Growth Fund, Lotteries, or Special Projects Fund, and from local philanthropists.

The theatre will once again provide opportunity for performers like Royal New Zealand Ballet to visit. It will also include an art gallery, boutique five-star hotel, and retail space.

Once the funding has been confirmed, it will provide the Waikato region with another opportunity to showcase civic pride, promote economic growth and continue to encourage involvement and enjoyment of artistic expression for generations to come. Our region is emerging as an accessible, inclusive, exciting place to live.

When Vanessa shared her vision to re-open Hamilton Hotel for a one-night-only event, I suggested we attempt to obtain a personal letter from Queen Elizabeth II. After many back-and-forth discussions with the New Zealand Cabinet Office and Buckingham Palace, Vanessa received a personal letter from the Queen.

In the letter, Her Majesty noted that and she and the Duke of Edinburgh remember their visit to Hamilton with fondness. She also wished the CBD Association all the very best for their evening.

As Vanessa read the letter out, jaws dropped, as people appreciated that magnitude of where they were standing and what they were experiencing.

I am constantly impressed by the calibre of businesses based in Hamilton’s CBD. These awards were a timely reminder of some of the exciting economic activity happening in the heart of our city.

This night of glamour and celebration certainly felt like a fitting way to give Hamilton Hotel the farewell celebration she deserved.