28 Jan 2014

Inside the NEW Sydney Exhibition Centre @ Glebe Island

Internet 119 Sydney Exibition Center @ Glebe Island - Sneak Preview - 24 January 2014

SYDNEY: CX today toured the completed Sydney Exhibition Centre at Glebe Island, (SEC@GI), a temporary venue intended to provide trade show space until the new International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney), Exhibition Centre and Theatre open in late 2016.

The exhibition industry are sweating on the temporary facility delivering the goods. Joyce DiMascio, Chief Executive, EEAA and Adrian Slingsby, Event Manager at SEC@GI hosted the tour.

The 25,000 square metre facility roughly mirrors the floor plate at the now-closed and soon to be demolished Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre. Its replacement is detailed here.


When the NSW state government decided on the Darling Harbour rebuild, it slam-dunked the exhibition and event industry with the news that the successful Darling Harbour venues would all be shut and demolished, with no replacements possible for at least three years while the new facilities were built. The convention industry, which loosely includes the meetings and incentive mob (known as MICE) all fluffed about and rolled over, seemingly deciding they had no choice other than to lose three years worth of conventions. Some of these are major events, attracting thousands of cashed up internationals to Sydney.

The exhibitions (tradeshow) industry were slightly more robust, led by Ms. DiMascio from the Exhibition and Event Association of Australia (EEAA) – which is fundamentally the peak industry body of the trade show promoter cliche. These firms sell concrete – exhibition space – to industries. They had the most to lose.

Ms. DiMascio was most irate in autumn 2013 when CX sprayed the public silence on the forthcoming shutdown of much of Sydney’s events industry. She delivered a credible shellacking to this writer on the phone, after I called her association ‘lame’. However she declined to publicly defend her organisation’s response to the appalling decision by the NSW Government to simply shut down the venues. Instead of progressively closing the rebuilding, which we detailed here.


She said then that if it were not for EEAA then the temporary facility would not be delivered. It almost wasn’t, with an earlier tenderer to construct and operate falling over.

Fast forward to now – the facility is built, from demountable structures – mainly the old press centre at the London Olympics, mixed with some fast framed sheds and all with translucent white ceilings and expensive hired air conditioning plants. They could have purchased these, but rentals look better on the books.



If you go to Darling Harbour and take the ferry, it is a ten minute trip around Prymont to the new wharf at the northern end of Glebe Island. The island itself is joined to the mainland, but only by one road, which feeds from the mess that is at the very Western end of the Anzac Bridge. There is no pedestrian access.

That is the critical issue – you cannot legally walk to this venue.

The second method of transport is a bus from Central Station.

Internet 601 Sydney Exibition Center @ Glebe Island - Sneak Preview - 24 January 2014

Ferry and bus schedules will be negotiated with the event organisers, according to Adrian Slingsby, Event Manager at SEC@GI. He is one of 20 former staff from Darling Harbour hired by AEG Ogden for the new venue. Transport is free of cost to both organisers and visitors, he says.

The old fashioned method of arrival – drive yourself – is also a live option, with 500 on site and 500 overflow spaces available, albeit at Darling Harbour parking fees. The former SCEC had around 800 places – so at first glance the new facility beats this, but bear in mind there were other parking centres at Darling Harbour.

But of course you can’t WALK to this new facility. You may have been able, had the NSW State Government restored the historic Glebe Island Bridge.


(This image is supplied courtesy of It shows the proximity of the heritage listed swing bridge to the site. The cards are parked where the new centre sits).

The government commissioned a cost-benefit analysis for the restoration of, or the removal of the bridge which has not operated (swung) since 1995 when the high level Anzac Bridge (not pictured) opened. The picture above was taken from the Anzac, which takes traffic well west (far, far left in the picture) of the site and means you drive about 2.5km further to wind back down there.

If this beautiful historic bridge were restored and swung open, pedestrian traffic to Glebe Island would flow freely. The Glebe Island and greater precinct will be repopulated and developed this decade as there is a lot of vacant land there. It is staggering to CX that the one walking link to the city remains decomposing, especially given the investment in the new temporary exhibitions facility.



This is a hard stand, purpose built exhibition center. The limitations are rigging – you need ground support, but given the average 5m ceiling height there is not much scope to fly gear or signs. Access is good, the new facility is built about 1.5 metres over ground level, but forks and docks are all adequate. Power is said to equal the former centre, with 32 amp three phase feeds to each 9 metre floor pit grid. Water and other services are available.

Aside from no rigging, there is permanent daylight via the translucent roof. This is suit most exhibitors, but not where temporary seminar rooms are built. These can be screened, according to the affable Adrian Slingsby, Event Manager at SEC@GI – himself a veteran of SCEC.

Exhibitors doing build up will need to (a) drive themselves there, and (b) endure the makeshift catering. There is absolutely no third party catering on the island. SEC@GI will open catering concessions, run by Dockside Group, if the event organiser petitions them and convinces them that there will be sufficient hungry clients on the floor at 10pm on a Sunday night. More likely, CX’s neighborhood pizza joints will do roaring trade, if they can navigate the road into the place.

CX sincerely hopes the new (temporary) place works out. It is fairly good and the Ogden crew know what they are doing. They have been working to get taxi drivers down there, so our taxi cohort may know the long confusing route into the centre. Good luck to the exhibitors (paying clients) during setup though, pizzas and beers may be very, very hard to get.

Joyce DiMascio has evangelized the place, and her constituent ‘concrete selling’ trade show firms are all being brave. Let’s all collectively hope that the great unwashed public vote with their feet and take the effort to get to the island venue, while the new and ‘better’ centre is built at Darling Harbour.









Published monthly since 1991, our famous AV industry magazine is free for download or pay for print. Subscribers also receive CX News, our free weekly email with the latest industry news and jobs.