2 January 2016
The Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre opened with its full programme of events in December 2015. The 10,600 square-metre complex is built on six levels on the sloping site from the Memorial Arch in Deiniol Road up to the University’s Main Arts Building in Upper Bangor. The centre features a 450-seat theatre (Theatr Bryn Terfel), a 120-seat Studio Theatre and a 200-seat cinema, together with bars and a restaurant. Also housed in the complex are teaching and student facilities including the new Students’ Union and a 450-seat lecture theatre.
In 1975 Bangor University, then the University College of North Wales, opened the 344-seat Theatr Gwynedd, which served the city for over 30 years. In 2007 the University announced its intention of replacing Theatr Gwynedd with a new arts venue and in 2008, despite local opposition, the theatre was closed. The project to construct a successor was, however, fraught with difficulties and delays and it was to be another seven years before the new Pontio complex finally opened.
In 2010 Theatr Gwynedd and the old Students’ Union building were demolished to make way and the design work for the new centre was started. The cost was to be £35 million, construction was to begin in summer 2010, and the centre was to open by winter 2012. £15 million of funding was secured from the Welsh Assembly Government and £12.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund, with additional funding coming from the Art Council of Wales and the University itself.
The project was officially launched in January 2011, with the completion date then moving back to spring 2013. There was a row with the Welsh Language Board over the project and later that year Pontio’s Chief Executive unexpectedly resigned.
In March 2012 construction was expected to commence in the summer, with costs then rising to £40 million. The foundation stone was, however, not laid until January 2013 with completion then re-scheduled for 2014 and costs further rising to £44 million.
The gala opening performance of October 2014 was cancelled at short notice and it was announced that the opening would be delayed until February 2015. It was, however, to be a year before the first public events were held at the venue, with building issues, including construction mistakes and extensive water damage, being blamed for the late completion of the centre, whose final cost was over £49 million.