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Funding crisis hits Wales Millennium Centre

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The troubled Wales Millennium Centre has been forced to put back its planned opening date by at least a year because it is struggling to attract sufficient private-sector funding.

The Percy Thomas Partnership-designed centre was originally intended to be open for St David's Day (1 March) in 2001, but will now not be ready until at least the end of 2002.

This is because private-sector pledges to date only amount to some £2 million compared with a £16 million target. The £70 million project has been granted a total of £37 million by the Millennium Commission and the Arts Council of Wales and has secured promises of a further £14 million from the public sector.

Contracts have not yet been awarded for the construction work, although tenders have been received and a decision is expected to be made within the next five to six weeks.

The project is already at least nine months behind schedule, with administrative work being cited as the cause by the promoters. The difficulties in securing private-sector commitments will exacerbate the situation. Very little public activity or marketing has been undertaken in recent months and the news of the delayed completion date confirms public speculation that the project has run into financing problems.

A spokesman for the promoters denied that the project was in trouble and said that private-sector financing deals always took a long time to come to fruition. He added that the change in planned opening date was no more than had been expected, given earlier delays in approval being finalised by the Millennium Commission and the intervention of the National Assembly for Wales, which had considered supporting the project.

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