REVEALED: Bold $40M plan to transform showgrounds
A BOLD plan three years in the making has been unveiled by the Ipswich Show Society for a $40 million exhibition and flood evacuation centre to be built at the Ipswich Showgrounds.
The proposed facility, integrated with other showground infrastructure, would cater for 4000 people in an emergency situation, seat over 600 people in a main auditorium and be a beacon for expos and home shows.
The plan was unveiled to the QT by Ipswich Show Society vice-president Darren Zanow and Blair MP Shayne Neumann who have highlighted the economic, social and emergency management benefits of the project.
Funding will be sought from federal, state and council coffers with the Ipswich Show Society also making a major contribution.
The project involves transforming the current cattle pavilion into a four-storey exhibition and flood evacuation centre.
The bottom two levels will be for car parking with the exhibition centre's main hall on the third level. The mezzanine level is set to contain offices and storage.
The Show Society also plans to have an additional two-storey car park within the grounds to cater all-up for 1000 car spaces.
Mr Zanow said the total spend, including upgrades of other showground buildings and facilities, would be around the $58 million mark.
The grandstand complex, the cricket pavilion and the exhibits pavilion are all part of upgrade plans and Mr Zanow said funds would be sought from a variety of sources, with his organisation also contributing.
"Since the 2011 flood we have been looking at providing a better facility to look after the people of Ipswich in times of emergency disaster," Mr Zanow said.
"We have come up with the concept of an evacuation centre/exhibition centre facility and we'll integrate that with the existing facilities on the showgrounds and renovate those facilities.
"That will allow us to have home shows, boat shows, expos of all descriptions and bring tourism and business to the region.
"The largest clear span facility in Ipswich now is at the showgrounds and it is not big enough or practical enough to bring the big players in the game.
"We do need an upgrade, and this is all part of a long-term plan to upgrade the facility so that it is to a really high standard."
The Show Society is nearly at the end of the business plan stage of the project and has come up with detailed designs in league with consultants to make the plan as workable as possible.
"Then we will go into the next stage which will be to get it shovel ready and get the development approval from council...in particular for the underground car park and convention and flood evacuation centre," Mr Zanow said.
The Show Society will also be seeking funding support for the $500,000 needed to get the project shovel ready.
Mr Zanow said fruitful discussions with Mayor Paul Pisasale and Cr Andrew Antoniolli had been held and both provided letters of support. He said Mr Neumann and both state and federal governments were "on board as well".
Mr Neumann said a facility much larger than the Ipswich Civic Centre was required for conventions, performances and exhibitions and that the proposed facility at the showgrounds would bring jobs and millions of dollars into Ipswich.
Mr Neumann said there were an urgent need for the facility and that it would bring many benefits.
"Ipswich has had three major floods since 1974 and this will enhance the capacity for flood evacuation and recovery," he said.
"It will expand the premier showgrounds in our region and this can act as a convention centre for us until we get an Ipswich Performing Arts Centre.
"This will be bigger than the capacity of the civic centre and be able to seat easily 600.
"It is affordable, achievable and will be accessible to the public of Ipswich because it will be in the heart of Ipswich.
"All up it will cost around about $40 million and the show society is going to put money towards it. I will support them in future federal government funding they will seek.
"I would also be looking for Ipswich City Council and the State Government to put money towards it."
Cr Antoniolli, the divisional councillor, told the QT he was backing the project.
"When we did have the 2011 flood it showed the shortcomings of the showgrounds, although it was the best that we had," Cr Antoniolli said.
"This project has the benefit of being able to function as an evacuation centre at a high level.
"The Show Society is obviously looking to the future to have an expo space and some of their infrastructure is getting dated.
"It ticks all the boxes from a community perspective."