Adelaide heralds a new era for events

Twenty years after it became the first Australian city to offer a purpose-built convention centre, Adelaide is preparing to unveil the final stage of a $400 million redevelopment aimed at cementing its place among the country’s top events destinations.

In September, the Adelaide Convention Centre will open its striking new East building, constructed on the site of the original plenary building whose debut in 1987 signaled a new era for conferences in Australia.

Now in the final stages of construction, the East building will be a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art facility with a capacity for up to 3,500 delegates. It is the final piece in a project that began with the development of the centre’s new West building which opened two years ago, and completes a dedicated convention zone in Adelaide’s wider Riverbank Precinct renewal.

Together with the existing Central building, the new facilities overlook the River Torrens and surrounding parklands from their position on the city’s cultural boulevard, North Terrace. They offer a significantly increased capacity and flexibility, and can operate as stand-alone venues or as a single integrated complex.

Among the new building’s features are the world’s largest rotating seating “drums” — two 18m turntables with seating for 320 people. The drums can revolve 180 degrees in minutes to quickly reconfigure conference and event spaces.

Designed by Adelaide-based international architectural firm Woods Bagot, the East building will also offer a new auditorium with hinged seating that can be lowered from the roof space to convert an exhibition hall into a lecture theatre. Sliding walls can be used to enclose conference space or opened to allow a full capacity plenary session.

Fittingly, the first conference to be hosted in the East building will focus on the cutting edge of science and technology. The 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) to be held in September is the world’s largest and most significant gathering of scientists and space professionals, and will be one of the biggest events held in the South Australian capital this year.

More than 3,000 delegates are expected to attend, including astronauts, heads of space agencies, engineers, scientists, innovators, legal and policy specialists, parliamentarians and students.

The congress will be the first to utilise all three of the Adelaide Convention Centre’s interconnected buildings and will coincide with several space milestones including the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1 and the 50th anniversary of Australia’s first satellite, WRESAT.

The redevelopment of the Adelaide Convention Centre is part of a $3 billion plan to overhaul Adelaide’s Riverbank Precinct, which aims to create a new hub for research, health and medicine, education, sport, arts and entertainment.

It includes a $300 million expansion of the Adelaide Casino, which will add a new 80-room luxury hotel to its site beside the Convention Centre.

It will also connect to a $600 million redevelopment of the adjoining Festival Plaza, which will add restaurants, bars, parking, retail and office space to a revitalised arts and entertainment precinct surrounding the Adelaide Festival Theatre.

Due for completion in 2020, the plaza will link Adelaide’s main axis, King William Street, with other areas around the Festival Centre, the Casino, Adelaide Railway Station and the Convention Centre.

It will also connect to the riverside Elder Park, a site of large-scale outdoor public events, and to a recently constructed footbridge over the Torrens to the Adelaide Oval.

As well as uniting conference facilities and public venues, the Riverbank Precinct will also link with the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia, and aims to create a new heart within the Adelaide city centre.

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