What was the motivation behind the redevelopment?
My background initially was as an urban planner and when I started to set about motivating for a much needed extension one of my primary focuses was how the convention centre could contribute to the precinct, rather than working in isolation. A lot of the things we documented are now happening. The Adelaide Oval started it off. Now the recompletion of the Festival Centre and Casino redevelopment. Of course there is the bio-medical hub which is reputedly going to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere right on our doorstep. Then you have the Tonsley development park opening up just at the right time to put Adelaide in a different place as a city of thinking and innovation. Adelaide is in a very exciting place and I think in the next 10 years you will see a huge difference in the city.
How has the Centre’s role changed?
The whole Riverbank precinct has to a large extent given Adelaide a heart and something to show off about. The convention centre has been at the heart of that precinct for the last 30 years but the trouble is it used to turn its back on it. It was almost a pillbox looking out over the waterfront and that was its sole interaction with the river. It sort of epitomised the general role of the convention centre, which was traditionally a ‘keep out’. Hold your conference, get your delegates in and lock the doors and everyone else keep out. That has completely changed now. Convention centres are community facilities where you need to encourage people to move through them and take ownership of them. The whole centre is now focused on the Riverbank and has been completely opened up.
The International Aeronautical Conference was a great way to finish
The International Aeronautical Conference has been extraordinary for a number of reasons. Firstly it was probably the biggest stand-alone conference the city has ever held. The legacies it is leaving are massive from the announcement of a national space agency to all sorts of signed MOUs between the state government and various parties, as well as local businesses and international businesses. It was amazing to see just how the government was leveraging out of the opportunities this conference presented. The other very gratifying part is to see how well this building worked, which is incredibly flexible and has been designed according to a very strict brief. We used it in virtually every configuration. If we hadn’t had that flexibility we wouldn’t have been in a position to host this conference.
How hard is it to hand over the reins to Simon Burgess?
Any good team has to have a transition plan, and Simon stood out as being one of the obvious candidates. We have worked together for over five years so, attending trade shows. It gives you a lot of time to talk and discuss ideas, and I think there is great element of continuity there now. We have a very sound operations team so I think it will be a good team when I leave.