West Gippsland Arts Centre Redevelopment

When the West Gippsland Arts Centre (WGAC) was first built in 1982, the original plan was for a venue of 750 - 800 seats including a balcony and stalls seating. It was also intended to have a mechanised fore-stage platform. Budget shortfalls, caused by building delays, led to the balcony seating and mechanised stage lift being cut from the design, reducing seating capacity to 490.

The WGAC upgrade project honours the efforts of the original founders and workers, and aims to ‘get the job finished’. Our aim is to finally achieve the original vision for this important regional facility.

In 2012, Council engaged Williams Ross Architects to undertake a master-planning exercise to determine possible future development of WGAC.

Their overview showed the building itself was very well designed and had ‘excellent bones’ but, at 30 plus years of age, was in need of major refurbishment if it was going to continue to serve the community in the future.

Reasons for Redevelopment

Seating and public amenities were in poor condition and staff areas were inadequate for the needs of such an actively used building.

The original aim of the building, to have 750 – 800 seats would enable far better use to be made of the very good stage, which has the ability to present much larger shows than the current limited audience capacity of 490 seats can attract. This also significantly improves the economic sustainability of the centre and thus its ability to support subsidised community use.

The architects highlighted significant issues around compliance with contemporary building accessibility codes.

They also noted that changes made in the year 2000 had obscured the point of arrival and caused internal areas such as the foyers and auditorium entrances to be congested.

In 2014/15, the masterplan was followed up with a strategic plan to seek external funding from State and Federal Governments. This external funding would be in addition to funds contributed by Council’s Developer Contribution Scheme that had been set aside for the project.

Council was successful in receiving funding from Regional Development Victoria to further develop schematic design work to enable a ‘shovel ready’ proposal to be offered to potential funding bodies.

Detailed cost estimates at this stage showed the project would need around $13 - $14 million dollars to achieve its key refurbishment objectives. However, it was noted that if an Arts Centre of this standard were to be developed on a Greenfield site it would cost approximately $45 million.

Current Situation

In February 2017 Council made the courageous decision to award Building Engineering Pty. Ltd. the tender for the construction of the redevelopment in its support of the Latrobe Valley transition. 

The tender was awarded following a $4 million funding commitment from the State Government's Regional Development Victoria fund in early 2016, and a further $4 million funding commitment from the Federal Government in February 2017. 

The WGAC will close in March 2017 to make way for the redevelopment works which are expected to continue until July 2018.

To find out how Council Staff and Services will be affected during the temporary closure, go to West Gippsland Arts Centre.

Aims and Objectives

The upgrade project aims to:

  • Honour the commitment and investment of all those who have been behind the success of West Gippsland Arts Centre over the past 30 plus years, by bringing the original and future visions for the Arts Centre into being.
  • Support and enable the people of the community right now; both those who currently use the facility and those who may use it in the future.
  • Respond to the rapid growth of our local population by closing the asset renewal gap, and extending the life and maintaining the standard of the Arts Centre building.
  • Be a community asset that helps shape the kind of community we want to be in the future.
  • Serve our future needs as a community and provide job opportunities both directly and indirectly as it serves to stimulate the local economy, bring visitors and tourists.

Scope of Works

The project will see major improvements to the community facility, including:

  • Increasing the seating capacity from 510 to 760.
  • Creating a new access foyer to the south side of the auditorium, along with foyers for the rear stalls and balcony seating.
  • Reorienting the centre and café space so that it takes advantage of the beautiful outlook provided by Civic Park.
  • Achieving Universal Design Principles, with accessible wheelchair spaces, assisted access aisles and an elevator, as well as improved seat spacing, particularly in the new balcony.
  • New meeting spaces to allow for hosting major regional conferences.
  • Technical improvements to accommodate major productions on a larger scale.

Upgrade Project Key Outcomes

  • Improved accessibility at all levels.
  • Improved seating capacity and economic sustainability.
  • Improved connection to active public spaces.
  • Improved ability to offer other services such as conferences, exhibitions, meetings, and visitor information and event and attraction bookings.