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International Focus: Melbourne Poised for Growth with Expansion Project

by Cynthya Porter

Melbourne, Australia, is jockeying for a position in the global exhibition and event marketplace with the unveiling of design plans for a new event center that officials are promising will be one of the best in the world. The venue, set to open in 2022, recently began accepting bookings in anticipation of that completion date. It will be a flexible-use space in the heart of the city’s 100-acre Melbourne & Olympic Parks complex, which currently contains several arenas, a stadium and other indoor and outdoor event spaces on the edge of the city’s central business district.

“With our precinct located on the edge of Melbourne’s vibrant central business district, we’ve designed our new center to capture the magnificent beat of the city, while also having the flexibility to allow events to create their own identity. With spaces for both grand and intimate events, the new center’s fundamental purpose is to enhance experiences and leave guests talking about your event long after it’s over,” says Lara Burnes, general manager of Premier Events & Experiences at Melbourne & Olympic Park.

The project is the third and final stage of a $1 billion refurbishment and development plan that has been underway since 2010, with the first two phases making significant improvements to the park’s sports facilities, infrastructure and aesthetics. Officials say the Phase 3 spaces being created will be the pinnacle of the plan’s achievements and will position the district among the greatest facilities worldwide. Artist renderings show the venue will have 28-foot ceilings accentuated by floor-to-ceiling windows that provide views across the Australian landscape and the Melbourne city skyline. A 22,000-square-foot pillarless ballroom and an 11,000-square-foot pre-function area will be rounded out with a 250-seat auditorium, multiple breakout rooms, and an outdoor terrace.

Melbourne & Olympic Parks, perhaps best known for hosting the Australian Tennis Open Championships, has a total capacity of more than 65,000 people and was first constructed as Olympic Park for the summer Olympics in 1956. Its state-of-the-art arenas have retractable roofs and flexible pre-function areas that lend themselves well to concerts and other gatherings and events outside of the tennis community. Over time, the addition of conference and meeting spaces to the district’s sports arenas has helped Melbourne become one of Australia’s leading event and exhibition cities. Currently, the complex hosts an estimated 2.5 million people per year at more than 600 events.

For conferences and exhibitions, Melbourne’s offerings include the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center which, with a footprint of nearly 750,000 square feet including a 430,000-square-foot pillarless meeting space, is the largest venue of its kind in Australia. Though not situated adjacently, Melbourne & Olympic Parks and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center team up to leverage the capabilities of both complexes in order to land major international conferences, including, most recently, the 2023 International Rotary Conference with an estimated 20,000 attendees.

Complementing Melbourne’s burgeoning status as a destination, at least 22 new hotels have either recently opened or are in the works, adding more than 4,000 hotel rooms to the city’s lineup. In addition, the city saw an uptick in direct international flights in 2018, with a dozen new or expanded routes around the world from places such as San Francisco, Milan and Jakarta.

Cynthya Porter is a 70-time award-winning journalist recognized by national and international associations for her journalistic expertise in tradeshow topics, travel writing, photography, and news. She has covered the exhibition industry for seven years and, though she makes her home in the Midwest, travels the world in search of interesting stories and photographs.

This story originally appeared in the May/June issue of Exhibit City News, p. 52. For original layout, visit


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