WORK could be about to start which will finally end Wigan’s 30-year wait for a concert hall.
Today’s Community Church is now only waiting for a signature on a piece of paper showing that they are the new owners of a large tract of land off Pottery Road on which they plan to build a multi-million-pound, 1,000-seat arena.
The church would get first refusal on the building’s use, but the intention is to hire it out for public use.
Not since the Queen’s Hall was demolished in the 1980s to make way for Wigan bus station has the borough had a purpose-built venue capable of taking four-figure audiences. This has proved a blow to Wigan’s economy, culture and prestige.
Roads are currently being put in which improve access around the existing church building - the former Mitco Pek tarpaulin factory - which itself has been undergoing a dramatic transformation as part of the masterplan.
Its main auditorium has now been divided up into smaller sections and the church is looking to hire these rooms out too, mainly for corporate events and community groups.
The Wigan Evening Post was this week given an exclusive tour of the revamped premises, which boast three seminar rooms, two larger conference halls and a new cafe, which will also be opened to the public during the week once it is finished.
But excitement is growing over what could soon be springing up on the land next door which was vacated by First Buses when the Robin Park Relief Road was created.
All the planning approval required has been achieved and all that remains now is the “land title.” The church has, however, asked to keep the artist’s impression of the premises under wraps for just a little longer.
Church leadership team member Rachel Calland said: “We are very much looking forward to the months and years ahead.
“The redevelopment of the existing building is exciting enough but the prospect of a new concert arena is something particularly to celebrate.”
Wigan used to be like every major town or city in the country in having plenty of public performance space. But one by one they disappeared over the decades, not to be replaced.
And since the last of the large ones - the Queen’s Hall on Market Street - shut campaigns, ideas and even cash to get a concert hall project going came and went with depressing regularity and as recession took hold of the borough several years ago, the prospects of rectifying this cultural imbalance looked bleaker than ever.
But then out of the blue the community church, which commands congregations of around 300 and currently has to hold two services on Sunday mornings to accommodate all the worshippers, announced its desire to build the hall.
Grants have been applied for but the congregation are said already to have pledged a substantial amount of money towards it.
Ms Calland said: “This is not just a venue for the church community but for the whole of Wigan, something which we have not had for many years.
“We need somewhere to go for concerts and events, as well as attracting people to the town.
“We want to encourage anything which enhances, communities, families and builds up the town of Wigan.”