Work has begun on a 3,500-capacity live venue in the heart of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley which its developer hopes will fill a gaping hole in the music market for mid-sized sites.
The multi-million dollar project is the brainchild of Scott Hutchinson, CEO of construction giant Hutchinson Builders, QMusic patron and an avowed music fan; former Powderfinger bass player John “JC” Collins; and the band’s former manager and co-CEO of Secret Sounds Group Paul Piticco. The trio also joined forces for the 800-capacity Triffid venue in nearby Newstead, which opened for business in 2014 and has been booked solid since.
The new venue will have a mix of retail stores and a function space and is situated in the centre of the lively Brunswick Street Mall, just next door to the Black Bear Lodge and about 400 metres from the Judith Wright Centre, the host venue for the annual Bigsound conference.
“JC and I are going overseas soon to have a look at some venues in America, so we are still playing around with some ideas. But it will hold 3,500 people and there could not be a better position for it,” Hutchinson told the Brisbane Times. “It is just so good. And that has been what’s made us do it.”
Brisbane is sadly lacking in venues of this scale since Festival Hall, a 4,000-capacity room in central Brisbane which hosted a concert by the Beatles and countless other local and international stars, was bulldozed in 2003. Festival Hall lives on in name only; it was converted into an apartment block, Festival Towers, which displays photos in its lobby of the famous artists who graced its stages.
Valley venues The Zoo and The Tivoli respectively cater for about 800 and 1,400 concert goers. On Brisbane’s Southbank, the Great Hall at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre holds 4,000 punters and has hosted performances from One Direction, Rodriguez and many more, but its atmosphere is sterile compared with the sticky hard floor of the old Festival Hall. The West End’s Max Watt’s (formerly The Hi-Fi), a mezzanine format with a 1,200 capacity, is no longer operating. At the upper capacities, the outdoor Riverstage at the City Botanic Gardens holds 9,500 and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre at Boondall, in north Brisbane, accommodates about 13,000.
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“The Valley is just so important to Brisbane,” Hutchinson adds. “It is unique in Australia because of its concentration of music venues.”
If everything goes to plan, punters will start rolling in from the early stages of 2019.