micenet editor Brad Foster thought the expanded MCEC was going to look a little garish with the colour choice. Like it had been wrapped in one giant Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. He discovered, however, that it was anything but.

I can imagine the early meetings between the key stakeholders and the architects.

“Okay, so you know about the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s? Well, what do you think if we sort of paint the roof and the entryway and a whole lot of other bits including that new hotel next door in gold paint to, you know, celebrate that period of history?”

Or maybe there wasn’t because believe it or not it looks absolutely spectacular. It’s bold and vibrant without being garish or OTT. It’s a surprise and thank goodness, it’s a little bit different.
The $205 million expansion was officially opened in early July by Victoria’s acting Premier, James Merlino. It adds 20,000 square metres of space to the centre, taking the total size now to 70,000 square metres – Australia’s largest.

The expansion includes:

  • The Goldfields Theatre – a 9000 square metre multi-purpose event space with a retractable 1000 seat theatre
  • New exhibition halls
  • Eureka meeting rooms
  • An outdoor terrace area
  • The Sovereign Room banquet space
  • The Goldfields Café and Bar.

The building design was a joint venture between architect firms: NH Architecture and Woods Bagot. MCEC took inspiration from Victoria’s rich history in determining names for key spaces within its expansion.

The expansion is part of a larger South Wharf expansion project by Plenary Group and its partners that includes a new 347-room Novotel Melbourne South Wharf and a new 1150-space multi-level car park – all fully connected and integrated with existing buildings.

MCEC chief executive, Peter King, said the project team had delivered a world-class facility that is functional, adaptable and aesthetically pleasing with a quality and sophistication that reflects the attributes of Melbourne.

“Customer experience was front of mind when planning the design,” he said.

“We wanted to ensure our facilities suited the needs of our customers rather than constraining them to fit within our space. Everything we do at MCEC is based around the fact we are here to connect and inspire. We will fulfil our obligation to connect and with the help of our wonderful new spaces – we will inspire.”

Inspiration spaces

And to showcase how inspirational the spaces can be, the MCEC celebrated the opening of its expansion with a series of events designed to showcase its new spaces, including a chance to experience the interactive C2 Labs that are now available through its world-first partnership with C2 International.

Signature C2 Labs, including Cloud, In the Dark, Pool and Barometer, were demonstrated to customers, industry and media over two days. The idea is that C2 Labs can be incorporated into MCEC customer events. Mr King said the MCEC’s relationship with C2 would inspire customers by providing highly customisable and unique experiences at MCEC.

C2 Labs bring to life C2’s mission to challenge conventions and explore a new approach to business events through immersive workshops, brainstorming sessions, performances and festivities. C2 Asia Pacific CEO, Martin Enault said: “Our immersive experiences are proven to re-energise and re-tool leaders, allowing them to find creative solutions to real-world problems.”

Inspired by the idea that creativity is fundamental to driving commercial and economic change, the C2 Labs at MCEC challenge delegates to collaborate, take risks, flex their ingenuity and leave their comfort zones behind. This progressive approach to conferencing, meetings, incentives and exhibitions sets the stage for reshaping the future of business events.

The aim of each signature C2 Lab is to put imagination at the forefront. Thinking outside the box is no longer a theoretical exercise. Sky, one of the C2 Labs, literally suspends participants six metres in the air so that the change in perspective supercharges blue sky ideas.

To take a tour of the new expanded convention centre, visit www.mcec.com.au. And to learn more about the C2 Labs visit www.mcec.com.au/c2

The expansion of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and broader South Wharf precinct is complete, marking the first expansion of an operating public-private partnership in Victoria. The A$350 million project by the Victorian Government in partnership with Plenary and its private sector partners includes a 20,000-square-metre expansion of MCEC, the new 347-room Novotel Melbourne South Wharf and new 1,150-space multi-level car park.

It ensures MCEC remains Australia’s largest convention and exhibition space, and able to accommodate the growing global demand for multi-purpose meetings and events spaces for decades to come.

Acting Premier of Victoria James Merlino and Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren joined Plenary Chairman John O’Rourke, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust Chair John Brumby and MCEC chief executive Peter King to tour the centre.

The expansion is fully-connected and integrated with the existing MCEC buildings and includes 9,000 square metres of flexible expansion space, a 1,000-seat multi-purpose theatre and a gala banquet room.

Around 700 people were employed to work on this project, including up to 60 apprentices. Now completed, the expanded precinct will add more than 900 ongoing jobs.
Plenary Group Chairman John O’Rourke said the project will increase business and tourism activity in the precinct, ensuring it remains Australia’s number one business tourism and events destination.

“We planned for this expansion when designing the Melbourne Convention Centre a decade ago, so it is great to be finally realising what we envisioned,” Mr O’Rourke said.

“As long-term investors in the precinct, Plenary was perfectly placed to deliver the expansion, ensuring MCEC continued its success and that South Wharf remained a food, beverage and retail destination.”

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust Chair John Brumby said he was proud of the project and the benefits it will bring for MCEC’s customers, the City of Melbourne and the State of Victoria.

“A project like this involves a lot of different people and I think the success of this building is testament to the strong engagement among key stakeholders throughout planning and construction,” Mr Brumby said.

The Victorian Government provided A$205 million for the MCEC expansion, and Plenary and its partners invested more than A$150 million in the hotel and car park.
Plenary was the sponsor, investor and financial arranger for both the expansion project and the original 2009 Melbourne Convention Centre development, and plays a key role in the ongoing asset management of MCEC.