The Cairns Civic Theatre was built 40 years ago and extensive independent studies and consultations have identified the ageing theatre's shortcomings. It no longer meets the needs and expectations of the community, and its functional limitations reduce its capacity to adequately serve this city as a performing arts facility, and to meet the needs of local, regional and national performers.
A refurbishment of the existing Civic Theatre was considered in the initial planning stages but redeveloping the building would have involved a number of risks. While the 40-year-old building is generally in good condition for its age, an engineering assessment showed that the redevelopment option required 85% of the facility to be demolished.
This option was not considered to be cost effective given the cost and time required to carefully dismantle the building with erection of associated temporary works, as well as the real possibility of latent risks (both time and cost) for both Council and the building contractor which are commonplace during the renovation of old buildings.
Demolishing the existing building and starting with a clean slate was considered to be the best way of achieving the project's goals in a cost-effective manner. In this way, two major strengths of the theatre – its central location and recognition in the community that it is integral to community life – will be retained. Preliminary architectural and design work on the new CPAC has drawn on independent studies, community consultation and consultancy advice commissioned for previous proposals.
Core improvements include:
- Increasing seating to 900+ people, incorporating balcony seating
- Significantly increasing the foyer and public amenities
- Creating a blackbox that can double as a 400-seat performance space, rehearsal and warm-up area
- Improving back of house facilities, including more change rooms and toilets, a cross over, higher and covered loading bay
- Building a deeper stage, more spacious wings, higher proscenium arch, higher fly tower and more fly lines
- Significantly increasing the orchestra pit and providing better piano storage
- Improved acoustics