Victoria Hall and Regent Theatre in management deal
THE city's two main theatres will continue to be run by the same firm which has been in charge at both for more than a decade, it has been announced.
Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) has seen off competition from two rival firms to continue managing Hanley's Victoria Hall and Regent Theatre.
The Surrey-based company's bid was accepted by Stoke-on-Trent City Council as the authority also weighed up bids from a pair of competing companies.
The council had previously considered splitting up the management of its premier Hanley venues for the first time, meaning they could have been taken over by different businesses.
But this week's decision means ATG will continue to run both venues.
Rosemary Squire, ATG's joint chief executive officer, said: "We're delighted with the decision taken by Stoke-on-Trent City Council to award ATG the management contract for the continued operation of the Regent theatre and Victoria Hall.
"When there were rival bids it does make you look at your own bid but competition is never a bad thing. We plan to build on the fantastic programme already at the theatres but also the community side of things which has been demonstrated through our creative learning scheme.
"The venues have world class facilities and something that we are really proud of and something the tax payers of Stoke-on-Trent should also be proud of."
The firm took over the reopened Victoria Hall in 1998 before winning the right to manage the Regent in 1999.
Since then, the company claims to have invested £3 million in each venue with estimates suggesting visitors spend £3.8 million in the city centre.
However ATG claims to have made operating losses of more than £3.5 million since taking over.
Figures show that since initially agreeing a deal to run the venues, 3.5 million people have been to the Regent with 1.5 million attending events and shows at the Victoria Hall.
The city council's annual subsidy for the venues has increased from £100,000 in 2000 to £626,000 for 2012/13.
Some theatre-goers, however, are concerned about the expenditure.
Brian Ward of Blurton, a former city councillor, said: "I don't really think Ambassador live up to what they should. "The council should not be subsidising such a large amount and I would be concerned if the agreements guarantee a rate of subsidy that would rise."
Councillor Mark Meredith, the authority's cabinet member for economic development, said: "ATG has a strong record of bringing high quality productions to Stoke-on-Trent, boosting footfall in the city centre and supporting the local economy.
"We expect that the new contract will mean that the highest quality productions continue to be brought to the city, and that it will continue to help the city centre thrive to the benefit of visitors and wider city centre businesses."