Set to be demolished: the Sydney Entertainment Centre

New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell has announced that around AUD$1 billion will be invested in creating Australia’s first fully-integrated convention, exhibition and entertainment precinct at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Infrastructure NSW (INSW) is leading the delivery of the Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct (SICEEP), which will increase the size of the precinct by two-thirds to 20 hectares, including Tumbalong Park and the monorail corridor, allowing for significant improvements to the public domain.

A hotel is planned for the new precinct, which also includes Sydney Entertainment Centre (SEC) and car park, and the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC).

The current Sydney Entertainment Centre will be demolished to make way for the larger precinct and the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre will be closed for three years while the upgrade takes place.

“The NSW Government is creating a vibrant world-class convention, exhibition and entertainment precinct at Darling Harbour that will keep Sydney centre stage as Australia’s global city,” O’Farrell said.

“The project will mean a complete face-lift for Darling Harbour,” he said. “The project will boost the competitiveness of the NSW major events industry, ensuring we don’t miss any more opportunities.

“NSW has already lost $150 million in economic benefit over the four years to 2010-11 because the current facilities have not been able to accommodate 169 conventions and 12 exhibitions.

“The new flexible facilities, combined with technological innovation and improved efficiency, will allow Sydney to tackle the Asia-Pacific market head-on, providing capacity and flexibility for ‘mega’ conferences and a range of other major events.

“And they will bring NSW an economic benefit of more than $1 billion over five years,” he said.

The new facilities will include the largest exhibition space in Australia at 40,000 sqm and the biggest meeting room space in Australia at 6,000 sqm, linked to both convention and exhibition areas.

Additionally, it will offer the biggest Australian convention hall plenary space capacity for more than 10,000 people over four different areas, allowing multiple events to take place at the same time.

Also, a premium entertainment facility with a capacity of at least 8,000 people will be created for both international entertainment events and ‘mega’ conferences.

“This will mean a full closure of the current facilities at Darling Harbour during construction from late 2013 to late 2016,” he said. “If we had staged the closure of the existing venues, this would have delayed completion of the project until 2019.

“During the three-year construction period, Sydney’s major events industry will remain open for business,” he said.

O’Farrell said that alternative arrangements are being investigated such as Sydney Olympic Park, Moore Park, Sydney’s hotels, the Australian Technology Park, Allphones Arena and other venues in Sydney to play a larger role in hosting conferences, exhibitions and entertainment during the construction.

The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre and Sydney Entertainment Centre has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement of a timeline for the creation of the new Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct at Darling Harbour.

The Centres’ Chief Executive Ton van Amerongen said the creation of the Precinct was evidence of the overwhelming success of both venues since they opened in the 1980s.

“Over the past 25 years we have been responsible for attracting about 20 million people through Darling Harbour, during major international conferences and forums like APEC and World Youth Day, through to world-class sporting events such as the 2000 Olympics,” van Amerongen said.

“In addition to that, the Sydney Entertainment Centre has staged some of the world’s greatest acts and accommodated more than 10 million very happy fans over its 30 year life.

“Throughout that time we have maintained our position as the leading venues in Australia and one of the best convention centres in the Asia Pacific region, contributing well over 10 billion dollars to the economy and continuing to attract new business.

“In addition, the Centres have been platforms for the delivery of an immeasurable amount of innovation, knowledge, performance and entertainment to Sydney.

“As multi-award winning venues, we are very proud of our achievements and my thanks go to our incredibly professional teams of staff who have ensured that we deliver world-class events day after day, year after year.

“We have been so popular that demand for our facilities has now outstripped supply.  So our redevelopment, quite simply, is a mark of our success.”

Mr van Amerongen said it would be business as usual for clients booked at the venues through to November 30, 2013.

Following the Government’s announcement that the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre will close its doors in December 2013, the venues will work closely with Infrastructure NSW and Business Events Sydney to assist in the relocation of clients wanting to hold events at the Centres in the period 2014-16, he said.

A timeline for the closure of the Sydney Entertainment Centre is expected to be announced once the plans for the Precinct take more shape.

Business Events Sydney (BESydney) has also welcomed the Premier’s announcement saying it demonstrates a commitment to essential improvements to Sydney’s convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities and their understanding of the valuable legacies, both economic and social, that business events deliver to NSW.

“The closure of the existing Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre is an end to a stellar 25-year innings for these facilities,” said Lyn Lewis-Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Business Events Sydney.

“But the decision gives the industry welcome certainty about timelines and the Government’s intention to fast track the project.”

“Change presents great opportunity. It’s time to really show how Sydney businesses collaborate and innovate and how we can accommodate a growing business event sector with agility and enthusiasm. Sydney has a diversity of venue options that can be used as standalone venues, or as part of a combined solution for large events.

“When you look back at the 93rd Lions Clubs International Convention in 2010, the 2010 Forbes Global CEO Conference, 2008 World Youth Day, the 2000 Sydney Olympics Games you’ll see it was not just one or two venues in the harbour city that made these events spectacular, but a raft of venues and a ‘whole-of-city’ approach. This is what makes the Sydney event experience like no other,” she said.


James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management

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