Brisbane in the flow – how the Olympics put a spring in the city’s step


Go to Brisbane now and there are cranes everywhere, particularly along the river where a series of new bridges are planned in the lead up to the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.

The new bridges are all about connectivity, or flow. Which is the state Brisbane is in right now.

The Kangaroo Point Green Bridge will be the tallest bridge in Brisbane when it opens next year. There are potential plans for this pedestrian bridge to include an overwater an event space.

Slated to open later this year, the pedestrian Neville Bonner Bridge will connect the Queen’s Wharf integrated precinct with Brisbane’s celebrated arts and cultural precinct, South Bank, which is home to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

Named after Australia’s first Indigenous parliamentarian, Neville Bonner, it will be the first bridge across the Brisbane River in more than a decade and marks a major step in creating a mega precinct that joins South Bank with two luxury hotels, what will be the largest indoor entertainment space in Brisbane’s CBD and a plethora of restaurants and bars.

The Star Brisbane will have 340 luxury rooms across the two river facing towers while a 4.5 star Dorsett branded hotel will open in 2023.

Perhaps the most anticipated element of the integrated resort will be the Queen’s Wharf Ballroom. Already open for bookings, the ballroom will feature close to 2,000sqm of event space with a capacity to cater for 1,500 guests.

The soundproofed area can be split into five separate serviceable areas, and there are pre-function facilities with bar and trade booth space.

Howard Smith Wharves under the Story Bridge.

You could feel the buzz in Brisbane pre pandemic with Howard Smith Wharves showing how vision and business smarts could create something special. Multiple venues, each one different and each one linked by a perfectionist attention to detail.

The only change has been the closure of its largest event space, Howard‘s Hall. During the pandemic they turned it into a German style beer hall – Felons Barrel Hall. Which also doubles a great event space. Wúnderbar!

Further along the river in New Farm is the Brisbane Powerhouse. The former power station with its heritage listed graffiti has just launched a new event space on its lawn overlooking the river.

The Pleasuredome is a hand-crafted sailcloth tent offering space for 360 seated an additional 350sqm of surrounding lawn. Create any type of event with exclusive catering partner Wine & Dine’m, which was recently named Australia’s National Events Caterer of the Year.

The Pleasuredome is part of new CEO and artistic director Kate Gould’s vision for the Powerhouse. Gould is a powerhouse of her own, co-creator of Dark Mofo and former CEO of Adelaide Festival, she has returned to Brisbane after a two- decade hiatus, drawn by the city’s ambition. She has also launched a new festival taking pace within the grounds of the Powerhouse.

The Brisbane Powerhouse is making the most of its riverfront location.

Launching early 2023, the Hap Wah Night Market will be a month-long celebration of food and art set to happen twice a year in March and October.

“Returning to Brisbane last year after an 18-year absence reminded me of our city’s natural beauty,” Gould said. “With its sultry climate and luscious landscape, it seems a shame to always head indoors for our cultural fix.”

Another local with passion of another kind is Jon Atherton. He’s a software entrepreneur turned master distiller and his tipple of choice is gin. Think Willy Wonka but in an award-winning gin distillery Brisbane Distillery Co.

Behind the venue is another room set up as a gin school. Great for groups of up to 30, who all come away with a unique gin of their own using some of the 150 botanicals on offer.

Atherton is also as committed to the environment as he is gin. This is a zero-emissions operation, so you can drink your gin knowing you’ve helped save the planet. The other good news is he is opening another venue in the CBD soon.

The Iris Rooftop offers panoramic views from the top floor of Hotel X.

The family owned Ghanem Group have a suite of venues in their portfolio including the well known Blackbird in the CBD. Their latest venture though is located at Fortitude Valley’s Hotel X.

Head up to the rooftop of this luxury boutique hotel for one the best views in Brisbane with new Mediterranean inspired venue Iris.

Brisbane’s newest rooftop destination is complemented by on the lobby level by French dining destination, Bisou Bisou.

Ghanem Group managing director Nehme Ghanem said they deliberately steered away from being “a standard hotel” restaurant.

Mornings see the restaurant offer an a la carte breakfast menu, a surprisingly refreshing alternative to the usual hotel breakfast buffet, but lunch and dinner trade is garnering a strong local presence. There is also a private event space catering up 110 for dining.

Ghanem is upbeat about the post-pandemic outlook.

“I think it will be an exciting time for Brisbane with the Olympics coming up and the amount of money being invested in its infrastructure,” he said.

“The Olympics has put a spring in our step in the opportunities that coming forward. It is a great opportunity and we are glad to be part of it.”

While the 2032 Olympics has set off a chain reaction of investment, other major events are returning to their former glory, with one of the biggest, the 2022 Brisbane Festival, back with a welcome return of interstate and international artists.

“Brisbane Festival’s vision of being boldly Brisbane and enlivening the city as a stage for extraordinary arts experiences, further grows Queensland’s reputation as a cultural tourism destination, as we prepare to showcase our arts and cultural sector at the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch.

The city’s arts sector is also thriving with some new venues taking advantage of the swift rebound in events.

The Princess Theatre offers a heritage events space with state of the art AV.

The Princess Theatre in the heart of Woolloongabba offers stunning event spaces inside its meticulously restored heritage building. With five unique event spaces on offer, the pick of the bunch is the auditorium which caters up to 500 standing and offers heritage charm and state-of-the-art sound and lighting.

On the South Bank, GOMA has seen a fast rebound in demand for its eclectic events paces, especially with the nearby Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre firing on all cylinders again.

Kelsie Hook, GOMA’s senior event sales officer, said “everyone is excited to be networking or celebrating together again”.

“We have found that lead times are shorter than previous years, and some spaces are quickly filling up, especially for peak dates,” she said.

With multiple event spaces available across the gallery, Hook names the Roof Terrace as a standout.

“I believe that all of our events spaces are really hidden gems, but I would have to say the GOMA Roof Terrace really is a spectacular space and is perfect for end of year events,” she said.

“Not only does it have views of the Brisbane City and River, it also has a he picture window that looks down into the gallery, so you get the best of both worlds when it comes to view and being at a gallery.”

Andrew McConnell’s iconic Asian eaterie Supernormal is set to open in late 2023 in a site overlooking the Brisbane River.

Lorelle Chittick, general manager of tourism, business events and major events at Brisbane Economic Development Agency, said the city’s $14 billion infrastructure pipeline is “strengthening our business events offering”.

“This huge volume of infrastructure will be a major drawcard for future event bidding while showcasing to the world just how ready Brisbane is to join Los Angeles, London, Tokyo and Paris as an Olympic City in 2032,” she said.

In the meantime, 2023 is shaping up to be “an exciting one for business events in Brisbane”.

“We continue to work in collaboration with our key industry partners, like the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre to bid for future international business events up to 2030 and beyond,” said Chittick.

“We are expecting to see an increase in international delegate numbers in person and will continue to work with event organisers to maximise marketing opportunities to secure new events.

“From the IAS Conference on HIV Science 2023 to the World Conference on Timber Engineering 2025, IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium 2025, International Federation of Surveyors Working Week 2025 and the International Population Conference 2025, Brisbane has already secured many significant events, which will reinforce our position as a global event city.”