Hamilton Island has a spectacular new conference centre.

When Hamilton Island’s conference centre fell within the destructive path of Cyclone Debbie in March last year, the future of the region’s events business was but a distant blip on the Whitsundays horizon. After an amazing eight week turnaround in time to host the HIA Event at the end of May, further damage assessments revealed that a major structural and cosmetic overhaul was required, leaving a temporary but major dent in convention activity.

Thanks to the collective efforts of the centre’s engineers and management, as well as the support of the local community, the ribbon to the new and improved convention centre was cut by long-term resident and one of the founders of AVPartners – Hamilton Island’s in-house AV supplier – Phill Delangen, on June 13. Hamilton Island’s CEO Glenn Bourke welcomed guests, staff, PCOs and local residents to the unveiling of the $2.5 million revamp, a monumental event which was 15 months in the making.

Attendees were mesmerised by the stunning reveal as the doors opened to the stylish new space, which boasts a modern look and feel, upgraded bar facilities and carpets, and interiors featuring white walls and pale timber panelling. The refurbishment has also seen a range of technological upgrades, such as audio-visual fibre optic cabling, LED pin spots for gala dinners, a LED-lit dance floor, extra wide projector screens and an indoor fireworks effect.

During the opening, the palpable community spirit between Hamilton Island residents, AVPartners and the centre’s dedicated team was given voice when Glenn Bourke addressed the audience, commending those who made the project possible and highlighting the cyclone’s silver lining.

“I feel a sense of pride coming into this auditorium this evening, knowing how it looked before and during the cyclone,” he said.

“For us, Cyclone Debbie did a lot of damage. But it also brought some great opportunities for us. The island has been tremendously upgraded on the back of that horrendous event that we had, so we have a lot to be thankful for.”

The centre has remained pillar-free with direct ground and stage floor access, enabling vehicles and large displays to be driven into the area. A number of measures have also been put in place to keep the venue sturdy should severe weather conditions eventuate, including layers of plywood underneath the outer skins and durable door hinges.

Far from being over, upgrades to the island’s facilities are just beginning. An upgrade to the Reef View Foyer and lounge is planned for 2019, and a pizzeria and gelateria venue will replace the old general store, now that a large IGA supermarket is on the island. Additionally, the footings are being dug for a new set of staff accommodation units on the southern end of the island in Palm Valley.

The Conference Centre can seat up to 700 guests for a gala dinner event, and can also facilitate small dinners and trade shows in its foyer and breakout sessions in its mezzanine level rooms. Up until the end of 2018, nine large events are booked in the new conference centre, equating to a total of 2400 delegates.