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Reclaiming Glory

Sydney’s conventions industry makes a comeback

Venue capacity estimates for the upcoming ICC Sydney.
Venue capacity estimates for the upcoming ICC Sydney.

You Lose Some…

For those with a stake in Sydney, Australia’s business events industry, watching as Melbourne and Brisbane won competitive bids for international conventions over the years probably seemed like a heavy blow.

On the country-continent, Sydney was considered a top meetings and events destination for more than 20 years. Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre – originally built in 1988 – could no longer accommodate the needs of show organizers. This led to the facility lagging behind newly modernized venues in other Australian cities.

Over the last five years, more than 170 conventions and 12 tradeshows turned away from Sydney, which cost the city AU$150 million in direct conference revenue, according to Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority.

Geoff Donaghy, CEO, ICC Sydney
Geoff Donaghy, CEO, ICC Sydney

“Sydney’s challenge was that it had two very important market segments — major international conventions and large trade exhibitions — competing for space in an aging building,” stated Geoff Donaghy, CEO, ICC Sydney. “[The] government wanted to ensure that Sydney remained the No. 1 choice for these important clients with a facility that offered the increased flexibility demanded by today’s major event organizers, supported by robust technology infrastructure.”

Upon the closing of Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, the New South Wales (NSW) government implemented a global RFP process. NSW sought to create its dream team – a line-up of experienced facilities management professionals and developers who would transform Sydney’s western harbor with the proposed new venue as the centerpiece.

This seemed like a tall order, but the RFP proved successful upon the formation of Darling Harbour Live to manage and develop International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney. The AU$1.1 billion venue is expected to open in December 2016.

Named in honor of their AU$3 billion transformative project along Sydney’s Darling Harbour, the group of companies forming Darling Harbour Live was also appointed to develop a 600-room hotel, and a retail and residential district.

A rendering illustrating the type of event festivities ICC Sydney can provide in 2016.
Event festivities ICC Sydney can provide in 2016

The northeast entry to ICC Sydney rendering
The northeast entry to ICC Sydney 

…Covering All Bases…

One of the five companies comprising Darling Harbour Live is facilities management company AEG Ogden. A partnership between Australian-based interests and AEG Facilities, AEG Ogden is also where ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy serves as director of convention centers. This allowed Donaghy to become a direct link between AEG Ogden and ICC Sydney.

“AEG Ogden operates on an international scale and is constantly reviewing global best practice design and operational improvements. The group’s learnings and corporate knowledge were part of the proposition that informed the capacity and flexibility for ICC Sydney,” Donaghy explained.

The Asia-Pacific venues managed by AEG Ogden also shared advice with Donaghy and the rest of Darling Harbour Live.

“Each AEG Ogden venue provides intelligence and advice on design and operational practices through to the group’s senior management, ensuring AEG Ogden managed venues provide the world’s best practice service and operation,” Donaghy said.

He added, “These experiences are shared across the network. Where appropriate, event case studies can be passed on to venues in relation to the rotation of an international event. Whilst in many cases, our venues remain competitive. Our ultimate belief is that the client matters most. If we are able to share event learnings with new venues to ensure the best event outcomes, then we most certainly will.”

Planned 8,000-seat red carpet theatre, which will connect to ICC Sydney
Planned 8,000-seat red carpet theater, which will connect to ICC Sydney

…You Win Some

To be located 8 kilometers away from the airport and near 4,500 hotel rooms, ICC Sydney will house the amenities needed to compete at home and globally.

“With 70 meeting rooms, four plenary theatres, 35,000 square meters of exhibition space, Australia’s largest ballroom and an open-air event deck, ICC Sydney’s multipurpose spaces provide endless possibilities for creating events and meetings,” he added.

Exhibition space at ICC Sydney was increased by 30 percent in comparison to Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. The facility will also provide an 8,000-seat theater to host large plenary sessions for associations. Fourteen restaurants, cafes and bars in addition to in-house catering will be onsite.

“The increased capacity of ICC Sydney can facilitate three major conventions concurrently, each with their own dedicated plenary, meeting and catering spaces,” remarked Donaghy.

According to Business Events Sydney, ICC Sydney will host more than 20 events that will take place from 2017 to 2022. These events include the International Association of Restructuring Insolvency Bankruptcy Professionals (INSOL) World Quadrennial Congress in 2017 to the 32nd International Congress of Actuaries in 2022.

Rendering of the 660-plus room luxury ICC Sydney hotel
Rendering of the 660-plus room luxury ICC Sydney hotel

“With a broad market mix of global, national and local events, we anticipate enjoying strong year-round demand, albeit with fluctuating and varying seasonality for the various major segments,” commented Donaghy. “We target a broad mix of events. International conventions are our first priority due to their economic value and their role in enhancing knowledge hubs and the intellectual capital of the host city. National business, covering exhibitions and conventions, is also a priority for ICC Sydney.”

In addition to AEG Ogden, Darling Harbour Live includes Lend Lease, Hostplus, Capella Capital and Spotless. Their revitalization of the 20-hectare Darling Harbour is expected to generate an AU$200 million annual economic impact and provide between 3,700 and 4,000 jobs at various stages of the project.

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