March 23 2021

By Graeme Kemlo

The naysayers could never have imagined the city of churches would rise to challenge the east coast with a massive multi-billion-dollar investment along its northern flank, but Adelaide is not done yet with the South Australian Premier promising a $700 million city stadium.

While some are quick to point out that this is an election promise by Liberal Premier Steven Marshall, those in the business events sector will be rubbing their hands with glee.

This arena, with seating for 15,000 and a central performance area is not only adjacent to the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC), a land bridge is planned between the two buildings. And my bet would be that the team at ACC will be tasked with running the venue which is another example of “build it and they will come”.

Much like Perth built a 15,000 seat, well-designed, acoustically-treated arena on the edge of their CBD, Adelaide would be hoping their venue would attract the world’s premier music acts to a purpose-built space rather than football grounds and an outdated entertainment centre set for demolition by 2025.

And just as Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) built a pillarless space, The Plenary, for 7000 and uses it often for musical events, Adelaide could potentially have one of Australia’s best plenary spaces by the latter half of the decade.

Adelaide’s recently revamped Convention centre has a 3000-seat plenary, although its exhibition halls can provide a 5000-pax capacity (in non-COVID times) using flexible floor level seating.  A proper raked seating arrangement, good acoustics and a central CBD position adjacent to about 30 meeting spaces in ACC would be a gamechanger for Adelaide in terms of the events it could bid for. However this would depend on the city having its national and direct international air links into Asia re-established when the COVID dust settles.

Not everyone is cheering though. The local soccer supporters would rather have a rectangular stadium than a central netball, basketball and possibly tennis court or performance stage. Melbourne went with a separate rectangular stadium which not only facilitates sport, but played host to Bruce Springsteen, because not every act is going to fill an Adelaide Oval or Hindmarsh Stadium.

The other part of the business events equation is housing delegates.  And Adelaide is currently well positioned to accommodate larger events with a slew of new hotel developments over the past five years.

Adelaide currently has around 6,500 hotel rooms. But as micenet reported last September, Adelaide has been in a hotel boom that saw a number of major brands, including Sofitel and Crowne Plaza put up their shingle in 2020, adding 800 rooms. This year, another 400 rooms come online and a further 900 are due next year from Westin and Hyatt. QT also announced a $180 million 200-room hotel for 2021, but we understand that may be delayed. Since our story, there have been further projects added to the city’s pipeline, including a proposed 127-room Quest hotel in North Terrace opposite ACC.

Two years ago, the Australian Hotels Association forecast that an extra 4000 hotel rooms would be built in Adelaide by 2024, and that is without whatever impetus the stadium announcement might add.

While the industry is remaining tight lipped about this Government-led project that is dependent on a Liberal government being returned to office in the coming state election, there is clearly quiet anticipation that this planned addition to the “Riverbank Project” along North Terrace, beside the River Torrens will transform a corridor that already includes the ACC, the new medical and scientific R&D centre, Adelaide BioMed City, the Festival Theatre complex plus Adelaide Oval across the footbridge into an integrated meetings and events precinct ringed by 4-star and 5-star hotels.