Major developments in Sydney over coming years are helping to create a hotbed of new facilities for the city, with the meetings and incentive travel sectors set to be the big winners. By Brad Foster

Just when you thought you’d heard of every new development project for Sydney another turns up on the radar.

Official approval was recently given for the Crown group – of Melbourne and now Macau fame – to build and operate a high roller’s casino and hotel on the area known as Barangaroo, which is located on the city side of Darling Harbour.

Those with their ear to the ground should already know that the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre is closing down at the end of 2013 at which time construction will begin on a brand new centre that when completed in three years will be Australia’s largest facility. To cope with ongoing demand a temporary exhibition facility is being constructed at Glebe Island, just 10 minutes from Darling Harbour.

Nearby, The Star has officially welcomed the opening of its Events Centre. Constructed at a cost of $100 million, the 2000 square metre, 4000-capacity centre has already seen a wealth of business. A bonus is an outdoor space which can comfortably hold up to 1000 delegates and offers uninterrupted views of the city and harbour.

On the city side of Darling Harbour, M&L Hospitality has just announced plans to transform the iconic Four Points by Sheraton. The Singapore-based real estate investment firm has engaged leading Australian architects, Cox Richardson Architects, to add a third tower to the iconic hotel, spearheading the revitalisation of Darling Harbour as a dynamic convention precinct. The new tower will add 230 rooms to the Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, already Australia’s largest hotel by room number, bringing the total number of rooms to more than 900 once completed.

Significant meetings and events space is also part of the project which is expected to be completed by 2015.

Away from the harbour, and still just minutes from the city, the newly redeveloped Royal Randwick racecourse has officially unveiled its $160 million grandstand, opening its doors to Australian Turf Club (ATC) members, corporate guests and the public recently. The landmark grandstand is set to become one of Sydney’s prime racing and entertainment venues, catering for major race days as well as large corporate and social events with free WiFi throughout the venue and the largest LED screen in the southern hemisphere.

Across all of its five levels, the grandstand has the capacity to host 4200 people in a banquet set-up, or 7900 cocktail-style, with all venues providing views of the racecourse and surrounding parklands.

The state-of-the-art ballroom, on level two, can seat up to 1000 guests and has already played host to a number of major corporate events including the Kennedy Awards, one of the largest media events in Australia.

Along with the grandstand, Randwick’s new mounting yard, the Theatre of the Horse, provides a 4000 person outdoor amphitheatre space for private functions and is the first of its kind for any Australian racecourse.

Just down the road from the race course, Bondi’s iconic Swiss Grand Hotel opposite the beach, is set to be transformed into a modern beachside retreat under the management of QT Hotels and Resorts.

The boutique hotel group, which is part of Amalgamated Holdings Limited (AHL), announced in August that it will manage the hotel component of the $440 million Pacific Bondi Beach development, with construction set to finish in 2016.

The 69-room property will be accompanied by 94 luxury apartments, one of which sold in June for $21 million.

The fast-expanding hotel group opened the eclectic QT Sydney in the State Theatre and former Gowings department store in Sydney’s CBD last year and recently opened the QT Falls Creek at the ski resort in Victoria. It also has hotels in Port Douglas and on the Gold Coast.

Thirty minutes from the city, in the heart of Sydney Olympic Park, the iconic Sydney Showground is upping the ante with a new $12 million multipurpose facility. Set to open on March 1, 2014, the new multipurpose facility boasts expansive conference and exhibition space.

Out and about

Aside from some major developments the beauty of Sydney for the business event sector is the ability to get out and enjoy the great outdoors in as little as 15 minutes – for surfing on Bondi Beach or Manly Beach – to just over one hour – bushwalking in the Blue Mountains and wine tasting and cookery classes in the Hunter Valley.

Fires in the Blue Mountains recently have been contained, with no damage to major tourism hotspots and key hotels and resorts meaning that there remains an abundance of things to see and do for groups in this protected area.

For those who want to experience a little of Australian farming life, you can take your group to Tobruk Sheep Station in the Hawkesbury region, just over one hour from the heart of the city. Delegates from the recent 3000-strong Perfect China 2013 Leadership Seminar visited the farm where they were welcomed by stockmen on horseback cracking whips and leading them from the front gate to the homestead.

On show were a variety of activities including sheep shearing demonstrations, damper and billy tea cooking, bush dancing workshops and sheep mustering.
Whatever and wherever you want to go in and around Sydney, there is an abundance of things to see, do and experience. m

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