The Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) of NSW was first established in 1822. Since then, the RAS has branched out into commercial venues and events, the flagship being the annual Sydney Royal Easter Show, which attracts over 850,000 visitors. This and over one hundred other events are held annually at Sydney Showground, a venue which was relocated from Moore Park to Sydney Olympic Park in 1998. The new Sydney Showground was a key venue of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and is now an award winning venue for exhibitions, sports, music festivals and conferences. We speak with Peter Thorpe, General Manager, who takes us behind the scenes of this iconic Sydney location.
Sydney Showground is made up of around 30 different buildings across 35 hectares, and as Peter states, there is a space to suit all requirements
“We have our 34,000m² prime exhibition space and function rooms perfectly positioned near Sydney Olympic Park railway station. We then have Spotless Stadium geographically central on our grounds and at the back end of site, we house secondary halls which deliver 45,000m² of additional space,” says Peter.
Recently undergoing over $65 million in upgrades, the majority of the site is modern and sophisticated.
“A lot of this work has been undertaken collaboratively with the Sydney Olympic Park Authority who have been instrumental in assisting us to accomplish these goals,” says Peter.
The upgrades to Spotless Stadium included new seating, grandstands, a large video board, change rooms, sprinkler systems, extra light towers, dining rooms as well as state-of-the-art media rooms. An additional 10,000m² exhibition hall was also added to increase event capacity. One of the biggest improvements was connectivity, which assisted in the delivery of digital CCTV cameras, four mobile screens and a new electronic upcoming events board.
Altogether Sydney Showground houses over 80,000m² of event space and dwarfs other Australian venues.
Operating all year round, Sydney Showground annually delivers over 100 national and international events, including music festivals, sporting events exhibitions and tradeshows. “We have a strong focus on event diversification within Sydney Showground and we consistently deliver a range of different events,” Says Peter.
In the last year Sydney Showground have hosted full seasons of Big Bash Cricket and AFL Football, with Sydney Thunder and GWS Giants both calling Spotless Stadium home. In 2016, it will be the venue for music festivals Stereosonic and Goodlife, in addition to the massive BBQ festival Meatstock.
Other events include conferences and gatherings from the Asian Incentive market. These events range from 1000 to 20,000 people from Asia and are conducted collaboratively through partnerships with Business Events Sydney, Sydney Olympic Park and Sydney Showground.
“We want to share our events with the world and are developing our new website to be fully translated as dealing with the China and Greater Asia market is becoming a big focus for our business,” adds Peter.
With the new website launching in March 2016, Peter hopes to provide clients a broader scope to promote their events. This year the Sydney Showground marketing team will also focus on delivering case studies, content and advertising via social media and other digital channels.
To ensure these events are successful, Sydney Showground has to work with partners, sponsors, contractors and associations. “Our business is all about our events some of which have been around for 15 years. Building and maintaining relationships with these groups is an integral part of our success,” says Peter.
A large number of events means an even larger number of visitors. The Sydney Royal Easter Show alone attracts over 850,000 people to Sydney Showground each year with other events and activities lifting the total number of visitors to a staggering 1.7 million. With thousands of people visiting Sydney Showground on any given day health and safety is always a top priority.
“We have developed a matrix to ensure all our staff possess the appropriate skills and qualifications. We also review all our health and safety documents to ensure they are current and accessible to our workers and contractors. Lastly, we have implemented a robust incident reporting investigation process to ensure we don’t have any repeat incidents,” says Peter.
Sydney Showground also has other focuses. With an initiative to offer their customers more value for money, some unique options have been created. “We continually make improvements regarding comfort and value,” says Peter.
One exciting improvement is the creation of the Snack Shack. This catering option offers good quality food and products which are all priced $3 or less. Snack Shack is available all year and Peter states the concept is really starting to grow.
Looking to offer something for everyone, Sydney Showground also has a completely revamped menu compendium. “Our menu will be available digitally, as we want people to know that Sydney Showground also offers a wide range of locally grown, award winning produce, wines and meats.” Says Peter.
Sydney Showground’s initiatives and overall success has not gone unnoticed. The venue and its team won multiple awards in 2014 and 2015. Sydney Showground was also a Best Major Events finalist at the Australian Event Awards in 2015, up against world-class venues within Australia. “Our crowning glory was winning the 2015 Exhibition and Event Association of Australia (EEAA) Best Venue Team at a major event site. Winning this award demonstrates our consistent team effort which we take a lot of pride in,” says Peter.
“The last 5 years have been great and my number one goal is to continue to mentor the super people working behind the scenes that make it all happen.” Says Peter.
Peter entered the industry in 1979 at Moore Park. 21 years later, he took up the role as General Manager of Operations and Catering at the Sydney Turf Club but returned to Sydney Showground in 2010 as the General Manager.
“I really want to grow the business because we invest back into the community and are so much more than a venue,” finishes Peter.
The RAS sets a benchmark for agricultural leadership whilst fostering an educational and competitive spirit amongst the greater community. With agricultural development at its core, the RAS nurtures and supports innovation – especially amongst regional and rural communities. Sydney Showground through its commercial success plays an integral part in ensuring the RAS ca