The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) sees the new opening of its Sydney counterpart as healthy competition, even as it expects to retain businesses won over recent years from the lack of a local big city rival.
"It's great to have Sydney back in the game again because Sydney is the gateway to Australia," said Peter King, CEO of the MCEC. "It wouldn't be healthy without a bit of Sydney-Melbourne competition but at the same time, our books have been as strong as it's ever been so I don't envisage that we're going to have a downturn in business as a result of Sydney International Convention Centre's opening".
MCEC's operations manager Darren Southurst leads a media group on a virtual sneak peek into the venue's new wing on Monday
King's comments come as cranes arrive to instal the first piece of structural steel into the construction site that will be a significant expansion to MCEC's current facilities. It precedes the completion of a multi-storey car park that will open to the public on Friday to show that expansion plans are on track.
The developments are part of a A$205 million (US$157 million) investment by the Victorian state government to expand the MCEC's facilities with the opening scheduled for July 2018, an investment that the MCEC is confident of returning quickly.
"Independent research shows that the operations of MCEC contributed A$954 million back to the Victorian economy in the last financial year," said Michael Walsh, MCEC's director of strategy and innovation overseeing the expansion. "This figure is predicted to surpass A$1 billion annually when the expansion is completed. So we can comfortably say it's a pretty quick payback," he said.
The expansion will add 20,000 square meters to its existing structure and features a flexible, multipurpose event space that can transform from an exhibition to a gala dinner, to a plenary keynote session in quick succession. It will be Australia's largest convention and exhibition space once completed, to increase the venue's overall size to 70,000 square meters. It puts the MCEC in a position where it's confident it will future-proof its venue for the years ahead.
"We expect to lose some business elements that will go back to Sydney on rotation," says King. "But we've also managed to keep some really juicy pieces of business that we've attracted in the last four or five years since Sydney closed (for the redevelopment) and these businesses have had such a wonderful Melbourne experience that they've decided to stay."
"But I think over time, our businesses will be quite different. There are enormous infrastructure reasons for the medical, research, education and defence sectors to congregate in Melbourne so I think Melbourne and Sydney will end up specialising in different areas," he said.