Cairns Performing Arts Centre

Construction update

The Cairns Performing Arts Centre is "out of the ground" marking an important milestone in the project.

The walls to the studio and lifts are nearly finished, the auditorium walls have started to go up and steelwork for the stage is being made off-site in Cairns.

The reinforced concrete frames for the tiered seating will be installed in the next few months and the structural steel for the roof and fa├žade will be onsite within weeks.

The project is nearing 20% completion (March 2017) on track for completion in mid-2018.

To date 360 people have worked on the site, with 90% of total works and materials supplied by local businesses and 95% of trade contracts going to local companies.

1.5 million bottles

300 tonne of recycled glass will be used to backfill the CPAC foundations.

The glass, equating to 5,000 wheelie bins, has been crushed at Council's Materials Recovery Facility to create a product resembling fine sand.

Mayor Bob Manning says: “It reduces the reliance on sand and gives used glass bottles a productive new role. It’s a fantastic example of how household recycling works.”

Photo: taken from the crane, this birdseye view of the site shows progress on the main auditorium and back of house (centre of photo) and the walls going up on the studio theatre (top right corner)

Government funding

The State and Federal governments have made funding commitments for the CPAC.

In April, the Queensland Government promised $15 million as part of the 2016/17 budget, conditional on matched Federal funding.

In October the Federal Government announced $10 million in funding from its National Stronger Regions Fund.

These commitments will allow Council to reallocate $25 million to other community projects.

Budget changes

The original estimates for The Precinct project – incorporating both Munro Martin Parklands and the Cairns Performing Arts Centre – was $65 million.

The estimate cost of the CPAC was based on the concept only. Once detailed discussions were conducted with the users of the facility, changes were made to the original concept to fulfil these desires, incurring additional design costs and some costs to the construction of the building.

The CPAC has been costed at $66.5 million taking into account $53.2million to construct the building. Additional funds have been allocated to cover design costs to date and in the future, management of the contract, and an appropriate contingency fund.

Once the full scope of the project was done and design completed, the cost of Munro Martin Parklands was increased by $2 million.

The cost to deliver The Precinct project is $76.5 million.

Construction under way

The site of the new Cairns Performing Arts Centre was officially handed over to Principal Contractor FK Gardner & Sons on Friday 29 April signalling the start of the project.

Indicative time frames for major works are provided below.


Demolition of the Cairns Civic Theatre is expected to take place from mid-May and through June 2016. There will be an initial phase of manual demolition but the majority of the work will be undertaken by machines. All work will be undertaken by experienced and licenced contractors working in accordance with the relevant Australian standards.


Piling is a technique used in the initial stages of construction to install the deep structural support for the building. Piling is expected to take place during July 2016.


Building construction work will start in August 2016 and will be ongoing through until early 2018.

Shortfalls addressed

A key element in Council's The Precinct project, the new Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC) addresses all the shortfalls of the existing Civic Theatre and much more. It will provide the people of Cairns with a performing arts centre worthy of our great city and one that will be able to host larger shows. CPAC will:

  • provide seating for 940 people, incorporating balcony seating
  • significantly increase the foyer, bar area and public amenities
  • create a blackbox theatre that can double as a 400-seat performance space, rehearsal and warm-up area
  • improve back of house facilities, including more change rooms and toilets, a cross over, higher and covered loading bay
  • provide a deeper stage, more spacious wings, higher proscenium arch, higher fly tower and more fly lines
  • significantly increase the orchestra pit and providing better piano storage
  • improve acoustic

The Cairns Performing Arts Centre is a joint initiative of Cairns Regional Council, the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and the Australian Government.

Cairns Civic Theatre vs CPAC

This table provides a comparison of the major components of the Cairns Civic Theatre versus the new Cairns Performing Arts Centre.

Cairns Civic Theatre

Cairns Performing Arts Centre

Total floor area (all levels)



Seating main theatre


941 (including 260 balcony seats and 20 box seats)

Seating studio theatre


400 (including 81 balcony seats)

Stage dimensions

10m deep by 22m wide (including wings)

13.5m deep by 27m wide (including wings).

Large enough for a full symphony orchestra or ballet company.


13.1m wide by 6.1m high

14m wide by 8m high

Fly lines



Dressing rooms

14 people

66 people

Toilets, public areas

Female 16, Male 8 (including urinals)

Female 28, Male 14 (including urinals)

Ground floor, female 18, Male 9 (including urinals)

Balcony, Female 10, Male 5 (including urinals)

3 accessible toilets

Toilets, back of house


12, including 4 PWD

Hearing loop






Balcony foyer



Food and refreshment service





375m2 paved area

Orchestra pit



Crying room



Porte Cochere


18.75m (3-4 car lengths or 50-seater bus and 1 car)

Car parking



Sneak peek

This animated flythrough provides a sneak peek at what the Cairns Performing Arts Centre will look like.

Functionality and audience experience

Read more about the functionality and audience experience provided by CPAC.

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Last updated: 14 June 2018