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Parking bid to secure convention centre

THE chances of Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre becoming a reality have improved with at least one Perth parking operator wanting to buy a 99-year lease on the 1,500-bay car park, to be built below the centre for $50.4 million.

Secure Parking director Alf Wilson said if the Perth City Council did not want to buy the lease, he would be prepared to.

“We’ve submitted a lease proposal to the Multiplex Consortium, plus indicated an interest in buying the lease,” Mr Wilson said.

“Multiplex responded saying it had to give the PCC the first right of refusal. If they can’t come to an agreement, hopefully they’ll come to us.”

There was concern the more than $310 million centre would not be built because contracted developer, the Multiplex Consortium, which included Multiplex Construction, KPMG, Accor Asia Pacific and Ogdens IFC, could not make its finances stack up.

Multiplex’s finance package hinges on the sale of a 99-year lease on the 1,500-bay car park to be built below the PCEC for $50.4 million.

The consortium wanted the Perth City Council to buy the car park but councillors have so far baulked because of the high price attached to the deal.

Councillor Laurance Goodman said the price attached to the sale could force council to raise its all-day parking levy to around $10 per day.

Further complicating the deal is the loss of 600 bays whenever a convention is held in the PCEC.

Council leases the well patronised 1,200-bay Busport car park, where the PCEC is to be built, from the WA Government and makes about $1 million a year on it.

Mr Wilson believes Secure could make the PCEC car park viable and that Perth commuters would be prepared to pay $10 a day for undercover parking there.

Convention industry members are watching developments closely because the collapse of the PCEC deal would be disastrous for them.

There are 21 shows planned for the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre – five of them conferences expected to draw 6,200 delegates – and a sod has not even been broken on the project yet.

Those shows are expected to be worth $42 million to WA.

The PCEC should be capable of handling 2,500 delegates theatre-style and have 16 small breakout rooms that would collectively cater for the same number of delegates.

It is also expected to have 17,000 square metres of exhibit-ion space that can be extended onto the centre’s surrounds.

Perth does not have com-parable facilities. The Burswood Dome, which has been used for exhibitions and trade shows, boasts about 8,000 square metres of exhibition space.

Ironically – as was proved in 1997 with LNG 12, which drew 1,700 delegates – Perth can handle large conventions.

It struggles with the smaller 500-delegate shows that require breakout rooms for concurrent sessions.

Perth Conventions Bureau managing director Anne-Maree Ferguson said if the PCEC deal fell through, it would be a disaster for the local convention industry.

“Even State-based conferences such as the Local Government Association are finding it hard to find a venue that can fit them,” Ms Ferguson said.

Meetings Industry Assoc-iation of Australia WA branch chairman Robin Rudaizky said losing out on the PCEC now would set WA’s meetings industry back many years.

“Even smallish places such as Townsville, Cairns and Hobart have dedicated centres and they’re doing quite well,” Mr Rudaizky said.

“MIAA members understand the benefit of bringing these high-wealth super tourists into WA.”

The latest PCEC feasibility study by Tourism Coordinates found the centre would be worth $2.2 billion to WA over 10 years.

“The PCEC will be a huge boon for WA.”

– Anne-Maree Ferguson

Convention delegates are considered super tourists be-cause they spend about eight-times more than a normal tourist. In today’s money that’s worth about $600 a day.

“These are the sort of tourists everyone is vying for,” Mr Rudaizky said.

“The competition for the big conferences is fierce and as yet, WA doesn’t have the facilities.

“The PCEC will be a huge boon for WA. Without it we’ll be reduced to hosting boutique shows.”

That there is still some conjecture over who will build the centre makes the PCB’s success in securing 21 shows remarkable.

One of the first things most conventions organisers ask is how much will it cost me?

Because no centre manager has been announced, there is no price sheet available for the centre.

The 21 shows are “pencilled in” pending negotiations with the centre operator.

There is also the risk that they could build the centre and no-body will come.

If this seems unrealistic, con-sider London’s Millennium Dome.

The Dome was built for more than £800 million in time for the dawn of the first day of 2000.

Little more than a year later, an auction was held to sell off all of the fittings in the centre.

The competition facing WA is fierce. The new convention centre at Changi in Singapore, the latest built in the South East Asian region, has six rooms with 10,000 square metres of ex-hibition space each.

Singapore and Hong Kong are pushing for international con-ventions while Sydney and Melbourne’s convention centres are building a name for them-selves.

Ms Ferguson, whose organisation is charged with winning convention business to WA, believes the new centre will have some competitive advant-ages.

“The fact it has 16 small breakout rooms sets this centre apart from many other oper-ators,” she said.

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