by Sarah J.F. Braley | December 15, 2016

A brand-new theater at the ICC Sydney, the Australian city's new convention center in the Darling Harbour district, hosted 8,000 fans for a concert in the complex's theater by Keith Urban this week to initiate the exhibition facility, which officially opens on Dec. 20.

"We are thrilled to have had the iconic Keith Urban launch Sydney's new entertainment hub," said Geoff Donaghy, CEO of the center. "Our exceptional facilities  have truly set a new industry standard for performers and visitors alike, and we cannot wait for everyone to get a taste of the world-class offering we have here."

The US$1.3 billion project features 378,000 square feet of exhibition space, 86,400 square feet of meeting space and a 54,000-square-foot open-air event deck. There are three theaters: the 2,500-seat Darling Harbour Theatre; the 1,000-seat Pyrmont Theatre; and the ICC Sydney Theatre, which can be rearranged to seat configurations of 2,000, 3,000, 6,000 or 8,000 people. Outside the complex, the redesigned Tumbalong Park features an amphitheater and space for events of up to 11,000 people.

"ICC Sydney is the first venue of its kind in the country, and underpins Sydney's reputation as one of the most desirable destinations in the world," said Stuart Ayres MP, Australia's minister for trade, tourism, major events and sport. "It will help draw some of the most coveted artists to our shores for years to come, and inject over $5 billion into the local economy over the next 25 years. It's a real game changer."

Hotels in the area include the 525-room Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour, with event space for up to 200 people; the 416-room Westin Sydney, with 21,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms; the 340-room ParkRoyal Darling Harbour Sydney, with 4,000 square feet of meeting space; and the 256-room Ibis Darling Harbour Sydney, which has one small meeting room.

Opened Dec. 1 is the 892-room Hyatt Regency Sydney, the largest upscale, full-service hotel in Australia, featuring more than 37,100 square feet of pillarless meeting space, including two ballrooms, plus a 272-seat restaurant.