Wangaratta council backs Ned Kelly 'theme park'

AN $8 million Ned Kelly Centre at Glenrowan could be financially viable within four years of opening, according to a revised plan the Wangaratta Council backed last night.

The project, first promoted a decade ago, would still rely heavily on federal and state government money to become a reality.

But the new study prepared for the council suggests the siege site could become the North East’s equivalent of Sovereign Hill at Ballarat.

The $8 million price tag is down from $15 million flagged 10 years ago.

Consultants predicted 72,793 people would visit the centre in its first year of operation and grow to 106,575 after five years.

The centre would also turn a profit in its fourth year after running at a loss of $280,500 in its first year.

Most of the visitors were expected to be day-trippers.

A small band of people, including a venue manager and volunteers would operate the centre seven days a week.

A cafe capable of seating 90 people would open for breakfast and lunch each day and possibly for dinner three to four nights a week.

Key attractions of the centre would be the Ann Jones Hotel, Kelly’s capture site and a railway platform.

The driving force for the centre remains high public interest in the notorious bushranger.

Recent international media exposure has been stimulated by the Glenrowan siege archaeological project in 2008 and, more recently, the discovery of Kelly’s remains.

The centre would include a free open-space area and a ticketed section, containing a main “conversation” gallery and three smaller galleries centred on the hotel, capture site and railway platform.

Visitors could access touch-screen terminals to explore stories of interest with the ability to add their opinions.

Digital content would be a focus, but areas would have displays of artifacts on short-term loans and Kelly story artworks.

The projections allow for $10 admission for adults and $21 for a family ticket.

Education programs would also be offered.

Economic development body Wangaratta Unlimited endorsed the Ned Kelly Centre concept at a recent meeting and encouraged the council to further refine the plan.