Marlborough's ASB Theatre is beginning to take shape, with construction of the basement level completed.
Theatre trust chairman Kevin Moseley said the building was already bigger than he had imagined.
"All of these spaces are way bigger than what we have had in the past, but they are all bigger than what I thought they were going to be," he said.
Mr Moseley was with a group of about 10 people, including Kaikoura MP Colin King, who were among the first people to view the foundations of the basement on Friday afternoon.
On top of 94 screw piles, which go 27 metres into the ground, had gone the concrete walls, floors and ceilings of the green room, track room, choral rehearsal room, dressing rooms and the laundry.
Features like the laundry, which the current theatre doesn't have, would be a big drawcard for major shows, like the Russian Ballet who require those facilities for their shows, Mr Moseley said.
Larger spaces meant that for shows with a large cast, performers would not have to wait outside for their scene, as they do at the current theatre.
To learn how to operate the new theatre, staff had been visiting theatres in Invercargill and Wellington, Mr Moseley said.
"It's a huge learning curve for the theatre staff, because it's going to be like nothing they've done before."
Project manager Tim Smit said completion of the basement level meant work had begun on the ground level, with the first of the concrete wall slabs going up, sitting at 10m high.
By the time the project was complete, the walls would be about 23 metres high, he said.
They had also begun work on the "river view room", which was to be a function room that overlooked the river.
The building had been designed so that when the river was in flood, water would flow directly under the function room, Mr Smit said. The project is scheduled for completion by about April next year.
- The Marlborough Express