Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre: Interview with Operations Manager

Date: 03/07/2023


Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre:
‘’Home of the unconventional’’ for nearly 15 years
Interview with Operations Manager


On the banks of the Yarra River, the iconic Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) hosts over 1,000 events annually. Emphasizing flexibility from the outset, it was the first convention centre in the world to make extensive use of an automated hall transformation solution upon building the centre expansion in 2009. Combined with operable walls to divide the 5,476-seat Plenary into three stand-alone auditoriums, this transformative solution by Gala Systems has brought unparalleled versatility to MCEC. Surrounding a configurable main stage, it features 42 deployable seating rows, allowing this 1,483-seat central section to be arranged in a variety of ways, each row being a moving platform that can be set at any height, with or without seats. In an interview with Gala Systems, Amir Asady, one of MCEC’s operations managers, expressed how this adaptability has been key to the creative use of space over the years: “One of the unique selling propositions of Plenary is the ability to host custom events and explore unconventional concepts. Having such a comfortable and flexible space really emphasizes that.” 

Always striving to better understand how flexible halls are used to improve their design, Gala Systems has maintained ongoing relationships with the operators of its 40 custom-built automatic multipurpose spaces worldwide. After nearly 15 years of using MCEC’s hall, Amir Asady’s feedback on the performance of Gala’s technology was invaluable. It ran smoothly through countless transformations; no events were ever delayed or cancelled due to technical issues. The utilisation of Gala’s technology has allowed MCEC to enjoy a high level of scheduling and operational flexibility through the years. “We have turned the hall around as many as three times in one day. That’s virtually impossible with other systems!” noted Mr. Asady.  

Gala Systems’ technology-related data: 

  • Increased activity and attendance in Plenary with 19% more events/year than would be possible in a traditional fixed raked auditorium.
  • Broadened range of events – from traditional ballet and musical performances to car launches, boxing events with banquet tables, judges’ panels, wine festivals with partial rake, and large televised charity events – reaching an annual occupancy rate of 367,657 guests in 2019 and forecasting nearly 400,000 in 2023.
  • Able to achieve 25-35 turnarounds a month, as a result of a reliable and well-maintained system and can create a variety of space adjustments to facilitate loading/unloading activities.

Flexibility, an unwavering attraction 

“Yes, we still get that wow factor’ reaction! We have had so many over the years!” concluded MCEC’s Operations Manager, while also confirming that clients come back because of the Centre’s ability to use the space in unconventional ways without sacrificing the permanent look and feel found in a fixed single-purpose arrangement. “The frequency with which our space is booked speaks to its desirability for our customers. They come here because they love the flexibility and know what the space is capable of. 


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