The new operators of the Sydney Entertainment Centre have spoken for the first time about their determination to return the venue as a top concerts destination.

"We're going to rebrand and relaunch the SEC," the venue's GM Steve Romer tells Billboard.biz. "We believe our arena is a very, very iconic piece of Sydney infrastructure. There's an enormous amount of memories in people's eyes, and we'd like to see it become the Madison Square Garden of Sydney."

The SEC has endured a turbulent succession of events in recent weeks, and Romer admittedly hasn't had the luxury of time to get acquainted with his new role.

The venue's owner the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority evicted the previous lease-holders, Kevin Jacobsen's Arena Management, on Aug. 6 when the company entered into administration with spiralling debts estimated at around $10 million Australia ($8.4 million).

Romer, a 26-year venues veteran who had served as director of operations at the neighboring Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre for the past six years, was parachuted into the SEC job when his employers Darling Harbour Convention and Exhibition assumed management of the SEC. The DHCE is jointly owned by hotels group Accor Asia Pacific and food services organization Compass Group.

"Our core business will remain live music," enthuses Romer, who says he is in the process of assembling budgets for the SEC and is close to announcing some new concert bookings. The venue has just hosted Alice Cooper and has the likes of Cliff Richard, Liza Minnelli, Il Divo and Keith Urban to come.

Arena Management had leased the 12,500-capacity venue on Sydney's scenic Darling Harbour since November 1983. The current 15-year contract is broken up into five-year periods. The DHCE's present management deed arrangement comes up for renewal in December 2011. "We have no reason to think that management deed won't be renewed for the following 5 year option," Romer says.

Romer has served as a councillor on the board of the Venue Management Association - Asia Pacific since 2002, and was elected VMA president in May for a 12-month period. He is a board director of the International Assn. of Assembly Managers (IAAM), which represents 3,800 members from major international public assembly facilities including stadiums and arenas.

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