The newly opened expansion of the Cairns Convention Centre in Queensland, Australia, showcases the city’s business heart and nature-loving soul.
The Cairns Convention Centre’s new US$118.6 million refurbishment and expansion is built for business, of course, but it also is a paean to the natural, pristine beauty of Tropical North Queensland, Australia. It pays homage to the regions’ two World Heritage-listed treasures, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, throughout the design, in which the new 113,000-plus square feet of meeting, banquet and exhibition space blends seamlessly with the refurbished existing center — even the carpeting design takes visitors on a journey from the rainforest to the reef.
The center, which completed a refurbishment of its existing 2,300-seat auditorium, 17 meeting rooms and 5,000-seat arena in 2021, now offers facilities over four floors, and has the pre-function facilities and operational spaces to accommodate multiple concurrent conventions up to a total of 5,000 attendees. It also features state-of-the-art AV, laser projectors and digital lecterns, along with brightly lit interiors and beautiful artworks that one would expect to find more in a gallery or museum than a convention center.
In addition to a mezzanine exhibition area that can accommodate 30 booths, the expansion features a 450-seat theater-style plenary space that can be divided in two as needed, three large configurable meeting rooms that can hold more than 130 people each or a combined total of 400 or so set theater-style, and a spacious lobby. It also has replaced the former “grassy mound” at the entrance with a large, undercover Porte Cochere bounded by lush tropical plants and expanded main entry lobby.
The real gem of the new expansion, however, is the 500-seat Trinity Room and the external Trinity Terrace, with breathtaking views out over the Trinity inlet across one entire wall of the space (there are shades that can be drawn, but who would want to?). It’s ideal for large cocktail receptions, gala dinners and special events, but many groups are already taking advantage of the space for business-oriented sessions as well.
The thoughtfulness that went into the design shows in many small touches, such as the parents’ room off the main lobby, where those toting kids to the meeting can have a quiet space for feeding, changing, nursing or pumping, complete with a big screen equipped for streaming what they otherwise might miss that’s happening in the general session. All of the expansion’s main spaces include spacious views and natural light, as well as an external screen façade whose panels can adjust throughout the day and seasonally to reduce the need for internal air conditioning. And the culinary team focuses on providing locally sourced, fresh produce in its “paddock to plate” menus.
Other local touches are everywhere. The expansion features timber that had been felled during mining operations in North Queensland and reclaimed by the local indigenous community. The Chillagoe marble used for the registration and other areas was sourced from quarries in North Queensland as well, and even the carpets, which evoke seagrass and turtles in some areas, and dappled rainforest floors in others, were created by Australian manufacturer Ontera. Even the construction itself gave back to the local community, creating 570 jobs and training close to 100 young building trade apprentices. The center is committed to continuing its partnership with its community, including being an active member of the Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and a sponsor of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
The Cairns Convention Centre will have the opportunity to show its unique atmosphere of nature meeting business when it hosts Australia Next (formerly known as Dreamtime), the Business Events Australia’s signature incentive showcase, in September 2024.