Victoria at work building a big events future

VICTORIA’S events industry is set for a renaissance as the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre gets to work on its $200 million expansion, backed by a string of other new developments.

The first pieces of structural steel were lifted into place at the MCEC last month, putting the centre on track to open almost 20,000m2 of additional exhibition space by the middle of next year.

Once open, the extension will integrate with the centre’s existing facilities to offer more than 70,000m2 of convention and exhibition space, making it the largest venue in Australia.

It will offer flexible multi-purpose event spaces including new exhibition halls and additional meeting and banquet rooms, plus a retractable 1,000-seat theatre that can be used for plenary sessions or withdrawn to create exhibition space.

Other new features include a banquet room for up to 450 guests, pillarless exhibition space of 9,000m2, informal networking spaces, an outdoor event courtyard and a balcony area to host 150 guests for cocktail functions.

MCEC’s new terrace

MCEC chief executive Peter King said the new facilities had been architecturally designed to suit the needs of customers, rather than adapting events to suit the available space.

“Within our new building, event organisers can stage an exhibition, which can then transform into a plenary session and then convert into a gala dinner space for the same event,” King said. “It truly is a dynamic and unique space and our customers are already telling us that this will be a game-changer in the industry.”

He said the expansion was critical to catering for growing international demand.

“To date, we have secured or are in the process of contracting over $15 million of revenue in the new space, which will be ready to house events from July 2018,” King said.

The extra space is predicted to attract an additional 74,000 international visitors annually, who will spend on average $693 each day and contribute an extra $167 million to the Victorian economy.

A new multi-level car park has already been completed as the first stage in the expansion, while a 331-room hotel will open in mid-2018.

As work on the MCEC progresses, other new and reconfigured event spaces have opened recently in Melbourne.

They include the new Metropolis Events centre overlooking the Yarra River at Southgate, a contemporary space with soaring windows and sweeping views of the city.

It features an expansive outdoor terrace and is large enough to hold 1,000 guests for cocktail parties or 500 for seated dinning, and can be separated into two individual sound-proof spaces.

Another recently opened venue is the Australian Events Centre which can host product launches, corporate functions, conventions and grand-scale celebrations for up to 1,400 guests.

Located at the Essendon Fields development in Melbourne’s north-west, it offers a flexible configuration with one large space of 1,300m2 or four smaller rooms ranging from 64m2 to 995m2 .

Across town, Greenfields Albert Park has been redesigned in a fresh contemporary style, offering space for events of up to 500 people in a pavilion with views across the Albert Park lake.

Meanwhile, a series of new hotel developments is set to boost Melbourne’s event-hosting capacity further.

They include the new Four Points by Sheraton Melbourne Docklands which was preparing for opening as travelBulletin went to press, offering 273 guest rooms and suites with city or water views.

New Four Poins by Sheraton

The hotel will offer 588m2 of events space aimed at small- to medium-sized meetings and gatherings of up to 130 guests, including an outdoor deck for hosting cocktail events.

In June the city will welcome the Hyatt Place Melbourne Essendon Fields, connected to the new Australian Events Centre. The hotel will be Australia’s first Hyatt Place and will offer 166 guest rooms, located close to Melbourne Airport.

Between 2018 and 2019 the city will welcome other hotels including the 164-room Peppers Southbank, a 279-suite extension to the Hotel Windsor in the CBD and the 127-room Aloft Melbourne in South Yarra.

Outside the city, regional Victoria will this year welcome the 46-room boutique hotel Jackalope at the Willow Creek Vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula, as well as the 58-room Mitchelton Hotel among the vines of the Goulburn River Valley.