A university's arts centre is being renamed and refurbished at a cost of £4 million.

The Gardner Arts Centre at the University of Sussex is to become the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.

The centre, a tribute to Lord Richard Attenborough, will be finished in time for the university's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2011/12.

Lord Attenborough, star of films such as Brighton Rock, The Great Escape and Jurassic Park, and brother of wildlife show presenter David Attenborough, became the university's pro-chancellor in 1969 and then served as chancellor for ten years until 2008.

The arts centre will be totally refurbished to provide a flexible auditorium with up to three stages and up to 500 seats.

It will also include an exhibition gallery, a café and three studios.

One room will be named after Lord Attenborough's daughter Jane, who died in the Boxing Day tsunami disaster in 2004.

Professor Michael Farthing, the vice-chancellor, said: "The Attenborough family have been associated with Sussex for more than 40 years, since Lord Attenborough became our pro-chancellor following his son Michael's admission to the university in 1969.

"He then served as our chancellor for 10 years until 2008 and his daughter Jane also studied here.

"We are proud to mark the outstanding contribution they have made to the life of Sussex in this way."

A director for the centre will be appointed this year and then a date for a formal opening decided expected to be in the 2010/11 academic year.

Sanjeev Bhaskar, the university's new chancellor, said: "I am thrilled the university is to make this major step forward in future arts provision on the campus.

"And there could be no more fitting name than Attenborough. I look forward to supporting the university on this development and perhaps even a performance at the venue as part of the 50th celebrations."

The Gardner Arts Centre was founded in the 1960s and has been an influential hub for performing arts ever since.

Sally Abbott, director of arts at Arts Council England, said: "The centre played a significant role in the lives of UK and international artists after its founding.

"This is a welcome new stage in the life of this extraordinary building. We are delighted that this unique place will once again be at the heart of the university's contribution to creativity while playing its part in the regional arts and culture infrastructure."