Revamped entertainment centre reaches home stretch
THE covers aren't quite off the $23 million Gladstone Entertainment Centre redevelopment - but The Observer got a sneak peek on Wednesday.
After a process hampered by weather, budgetary concerns, and most recently union disputes, the first public event at the centre is locked in for November 5.
The new GECC is part of a broader $33 million Gladstone Entertainment Centre Precinct Expansion Project, which will allow for three levels of car parking and also house commercial offices, with the top floor already leased by the Gladstone Ports Corporation.
The centre has kept 675 seats in the old main auditorium, but GECC general manager Troy Everett is pleased the facelift has seen "striking" lime-green seating re-covered with royal blue.
"I think a few people will like the new colour for the seating…especially considering the old one," Mr Everett said.
The decision to maintain the capacity was due to demand - there were only about five occasions per year when more space was required.
Hopefully it will become a real focus point in the CBD.
For larger events, there is now a flat floor area which can be broken into three individual rooms, or be configured as one main hall.
Mr Everett said it could seat 700 people at tables for dinner, and 1500 people standing.
Importantly, the main area has been expanded, with thirsty traffic to flow to 10 service points instead of two.
And the $1.5 million new kitchen aims to deliver up to 740 meals in a 15-minute window.
Walking in from Goondoon St, patrons will pass through the outdoor piazza, set to feature a garden, a bistro, and tables for dining.
"We want people to start their nights off here, to have a drink and a meal," he said.
"Hopefully it will become a real focus point in the CBD."
What's new at GECC?
- Main auditorium seating for 675
- Floor area capacity for 1500 people standing
- State-of-the-art audio-visual equipment
Countdown to opening
STANDING in the soon-to-be-completed auditorium is Gladstone Entertainment Centre Precinct expansion project general manager Troy Everett, and the pride in his voice is mixed with more than a touch of relief.
"We're at that really nice point now where we're in the home stretch and everything starts to accelerate toward the finish line," he said.
"All the hard work, the structural stuff, has been done and now we're starting to make it look nice and really making it into the finished product."
The project began in March last year, with four months work off-site before construction began.
After only a few months, though, ex-tropical cyclone Oswald wreaked havoc - while other sites were devastated, the GECC site got off lightly.
"Luckily we've got pretty good drainage here, so it wasn't so much the rain as the wind which held up construction in the early-to-mid stages," Mr Everett said.
"But we got through all that in the end; it did hold us up a bit though."
He was most excited by the ability to attract bigger names to town.
"Some of the acts that broke even at 1000 people used to pass on coming here. But now we have the capacity to do that we have a real selling point for acts to consider Gladstone in their tours," he said.
But behind the scenes, the $1.5 million kitchen is close to Mr Everett's heart.
"We're definitely looking forward to seeing how fast the super-chiller can cool down a beer when this is all done."