I haven’t said much yet about the convention facilities in Melbourne that I had promised to survey, so as I’m awake in the middle of the night with jet lag it is time to put that right.
The new convention center is on the South Bank of the Yarra river, almost opposite the old facilities. When we were in Melbourne in 1999 it was just a giant shed, but now it has been transformed into a fully-fledged convention center complete with meeting rooms, auditorium and an on-site Hilton. Some building work is still going on, and according to the local newspaper, The Age, there is an opening ceremony of some sort happening this weekend for the new buildings, but conventions are already happening in the older parts of the site.
I stayed for one night in the Hilton and it is very nice indeed. I admit to having been swayed by a free upgrade to the executive floor, but the whole hotel looked good and the only problem I had with it was the AU$30/day Internet access charge – something that seems ridiculously cheap now that I am in New Zealand. There is direct access from the hotel to the convention center from the 1st floor (US numbering). I didn’t do a Standlee Unit measurement but I shot video and I don’t think it can be more than about 30 Standlees (yards, metres, whatever) or so from the elevator exit in the Hilton to the convention center entrance.
What is less clear is how far it will be from there to the parts of the convention center that we are using, because it is a vast building. I shot some video of the shed and it took me the best part of 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Admittedly I was stopping to look at things along the way, but that should give you an idea of just how big it is. And as far as I can make out, that whole ground floor area is one huge hall. You could park a cruise liner in there.
The one part of the facilities I know that we will be using is the hotel bar. Unlike in Montréal, I had no trouble finding this. The Hilton has a collection of Spanish-themed eateries on the ground floor including a wine/tapas bar that is only about 20 yards from an entrance to the convention center. It could hardly be more convenient if it tried. I haven’t actually checked out the beer there, but I trust my Australian friends to produce something very drinkable; wine too.
Aside from the hotel, restaurant facilities are little sparse in the convention center, but from the city end of the shed (that is the opposite end from the Hilton) you cross the road directly onto the south bank river walk that leads all the way from the Crown Casino to the far end of the city center and is lined with restaurants all the way. There will be no shortage of places to eat. If you need shopping instead, there is a tram stop outside of the city end entrance to the shed, and that takes you right down Collins Street where the best of Melbourne’s shops can be found. For the more adventurous the 112 tram actually continues on to Brunswick Street where there are lots of small, alternative shops and cheap restaurants. It is about half an hour’s journey, but worth doing.
One thing I didn’t get a good handle on was where you would stay if the Hilton was outside of your price range. Obviously all of the hotels we used in 1999 are still there. They are just a little bit further away from the facilities. There may be some new hotels as well. I’ll be talking to some of the Aussiecon 4 people while I’m in Adelaide to see if I can get a better handle on that.