Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC), corner Merivale Street and Grey Street, South Brisbane was officially opened on 6 June 1995.

This world-class convention centre is part of the post Expo development of the South Bank area which had hosted the successful World Expo 88 from 30 April to 30 October 1988.

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre at Night. (Wikimedia)

The need for a world standard convention facility for Brisbane goes back to the early 1980s when Brisbane was the only capital city without a dedicated Convention and Exhibition Centre. This meant that Queensland was missing out on the rapidly growing lucrative trade and exhibition market and its financial and tourism benefits. While at the time many hotels were catering for conventions they would not be able to cope with the expected larger scale international conventions, trade exhibitions, sporting and cultural events.

An inter-departmental Government committee was formed which discussed various ideas and plans, visited venues in other states and finally decided that a new international standard facility would definitely be built in Brisbane. The site chosen was a 41-hectare land parcel at the back of the old Expo site on the former Expo Fun Park. The land was owned by the South Bank Corporation which was established in 1989.

The location was ideal: it was behind what would become the new South Bank Parklands (opened in 1992), was close to the city and easily accessible, opposite the South Brisbane Railway Station and near a transport hub.

The centre under construction in July 1994. (Queensland State Archives)

Submissions were called for and an innovative design by Philip Cox and Associates who had also designed the Darling Harbour Exhibition Halls was accepted. Tenders were called in August 1992 and the contract was awarded to Leighton Contractors. Construction started in March 1993 with the demolition of World Expo Park. The BCEC was completed in May 1995 and opened on Queensland Day, 6 June 1995. The building cost of ca. $170 million was funded by the State Government with proceeds from the sale of the Brisbane Casino Licence. An unforeseen cost blow-out raised the cost to $203 million. The BCEC is owned by the State Government and was managed by ASM Global, and now AEG Ogden, both international venue management specialists.

The first major event for the new building was the Brisbane International Motor Show held in February 1996. The Show used all five halls and was a great success and set the scene for future events on a grand scale.

The interior Foyer. (Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre)

Rapid growth and the need to keep up with modern trends meant that there was a need for the Centre to be expanded. Expansion plans by architectural firm Cox Rayner were approved in 2007, construction started in 2010 and was completed in early 2022, with the opening on 25 January 2012. Total cost of the expansion was $140 million.

The Great Hall after it was refurbished in 2016. (Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre)

The Convention Centre now has a total space of 171,000 m2 , a huge exhibition hall floor, ballrooms, theatres and boardrooms and underground parking for 1500. It has hosted many major local and international functions and conventions including the 2014 G20 Brisbane Summit. The Great Hall was the official home of the Brisbane Bullets and the Gold Coast Blaze National Basketball League, as well as the Queensland Firebirds in the Australian Netball League for some years.

The building as seen from Grey Street. (Wikimedia)

Over the years the BCEC has won many industry awards, including the 2016 and 2017 Greener Suburbs Award. It is currently being considered a possible venue for badminton, fencing and Taekwondo for the 2032 Olympics.

The Great Hall set up for boxing events. (Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre)

The successful and popular event and convention centre has certainly achieved its goal of enhancing Brisbane’s international marketing profile. It offers flexible and contemporary facilities for a variety of  functions both large and small such as conferences, conventions, gala events, exhibitions, concerts, meetings, seminars and workshops.
(Sources: www.bcec.com.au; southbankcorporation.com; wikipedia; document.parliament.qld.gov.au; www.afr.com; brisbanetimes.com.au)