Ron Harris taking a break from working on the Proserpine 360 Planetarium and Cinema Centre which has been delayed due to COVID-19.
Ron Harris taking a break from working on the Proserpine 360 Planetarium and Cinema Centre which has been delayed due to COVID-19.

Proserpine planetarium plans delayed but director optimistic

PLANS for a new planetarium and cinema centre in Proserpine have been delayed due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

However, one of the identities behind the well-anticipated project says he's optimistic about completing it in the future.

Plans for the Proserpine 360 Planetarium and Cinema Centre on the corner of Main St and Mill St were approved by Whitsunday Regional Council at the start of 2019.

Owner of the building and director of the Proserpine 360 Planetarium and Cinema Centre, Ron Harris, said the complex was planned to include a cafe and cocktail bar, a "family friendly arcade games" and an 8m and 5m dome planetarium as part of the overall concept of a family-oriented entertainment centre.

Proserpine 360 Planetarium and Cinema Centre render
Proserpine 360 Planetarium and Cinema Centre render

However, the impact of COVID-19 has delayed the project for two years or longer, according to Mr Harris.

The building will now be refit as a commercial space for rent to a retail or health service tenant in the interim.

"We wouldn't be able to get the patronage which would be necessary to operate a profitable (entertainment) business," he said.

"From our observations of conditions in the US, UK, China and other countries it is going to be more than two years and possibly much longer before we see some semblance of the tourist visitor numbers we have been familiar with in Airlie Beach and Proserpine.

"We believe it will be a long time before even Australian citizens come to the Whitsundays as they have in the past."

Ron Harris with new 8-Meter Dome Planetarium at Luna Park Sydney prior to delivery to Airlie Beach.
Ron Harris with new 8-Meter Dome Planetarium at Luna Park Sydney prior to delivery to Airlie Beach.

Mr Harris said it was "obviously very disappointing" to delay the project but from a financial and operating viewpoint there was no choice.

He said obtaining new films would have been another hurdle to overcome, with films currently not being produced due to coronavirus restrictions in Australia and overseas.

However, he was optimistic the project would go ahead at a later date and was retaining all items already purchased for the complex - including the two planetariums, a top-end coffee machine and a commercial juicer.

"We have already invested significantly in the redevelopment of the building for the proposed layout since it was approved by council," he said.

"We're still working hard, seven days a week, and we are currently in the process of completing compliant disability access at the front entrance and as part of the facade enhancement (we) will replace the front window glass.

"The possibility still exists though that we will be able to finalise the project at a later date.

"We will retain the planetariums and cafe equipment in the hope that it will all work out positively and we can continue to complete the original plans within a couple of years or so from now."


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