‘We can’t wait to show it to the world’ Lara Burnes on CENTREPIECE at Melbourne Park’s upcoming opening

CIM spoke with Lara Burnes, CENTREPIECE at Melbourne Park’s general manager of premier events & experiences, about the venue’s opening date announcement after almost a decade of planning.

How does it feel to announce the opening date in September? It’s very special – I’ve been working on this for four years, but it’s been 10 years in the making with the Melbourne Park redevelopment. Four years of planning, the last two years of construction and 12 months of that through a pandemic, it’s really exciting to see it come to fruition.

I’ve been looking at a plan on paper for four years and to actually walk into the building say ‘wow, it looks exactly what we were planning’ is really exciting.

What’s the first event at the venue? We are hosting the Associations Forum in September which will really put a spotlight on national conferences in Melbourne, so it is particularly exciting.

At M&OP we have been really fortunate to have the Australian Open and other events this year – we’ve welcomed over a quarter of a million across 60 events across the first three months of 2021. A lot of those have been interstate visitors.

Has the opening come at the right time? There’s no doubt that the last 12 months have been really challenging for the industry, but I think that this is going to be a welcome addition to the Melbourne landscape and really embed some confidence and excitement into Melbourne events. We are really excited to be a part of that journey.

Has the closure of our international border changed your strategy? Being a new venue in Australia in such an iconic location we were working on international business with longer lead times. But we had to shift our thinking to local and interstate markets with the international border closed at least for 2021 and the beginning of 2022.

How did the pandemic change the focus? The pandemic gave us the opportunity to look within our own state and gave us more time to reassess what that looks like, focus on local and celebrate what Melbourne is.

The last 12 months have also shown people their time is very precious. So it’s about making those experiences and events worthwhile whilst making sure they are safe.

People want an experience or event that is worth their attendance. For us it has highlighted the importance of supporting local. We as a state have so much amazing produce and we are really focused on highlighting that. We want to support our local farmers and suppliers and deliver amazing experiences.

How has the pandemic changed Melbourne? We have shown how resilient we are as a state and a city. We had one of the harshest lockdowns in the world and it shows how important as a state we place our people and our safety. While everyone has been working from home we’ve built a bigger and better city and we can’t wait to show it to the world.