Balls, weddings and conferences have historically been bread and butter for Ellerslie Event Centre (EEC) but it’s diversification that is ensuring a profitable future for this popular venue.

Harley Davidson enthusiasts, Clydesdale horses & their riders, Spartan Auckland City Sprint contestants, Lions rugby supporters and Deep Hard & Funky concert-goers are just some of the guests who have contributed to record profits.

This hasn’t happened by chance. It has been part of a conscious strategy to push diversity, encouraged by Paul Wilcox, Chief Executive Officer of Ellerslie Event Centre and Auckland Racing Club (ARC).

Paul Wilcox, Chief Executive Officer of Ellerslie Event Centre and Auckland Racing Club (ARC).

“Our team ethos is that there is no such thing as ‘no.’  If it helps build our income to support racing, which is our identity, let’s put it in the mix,” he says.

Diversification has been a big part of EEC’s financial success. In 2018 it achieved a record profit of $11 million and in 2019 sustained growth has continued.

The variety of event customers has contributed to their high staff engagement and retention rates according to Paul, who has been at the helm since August 2017.

“We love the challenge of adapting our venue spaces to meet ‘out of the box’ customer requirements and the last 18 months has certainly see us do that!”

Other events not normally associated with traditional event venues have included Zirka Circus, the Covi Motorhome Caravan and Outdoor Supershow, the Dance for Disabilities (charity) Fashions in the Field party and of course, the Pop-up Globe which has been onsite for three seasons.

Mainstream events have included 285 weddings, 64 seminars, 30 Christmas parties and 23 school balls between 1 August 2018 and 1 July 2019.

EEC also rents out parking and houses the Golf Warehouse & Driving Range in its racecourse infield.  All up the property, which is owned by ARC (who owns Ellerslie Event Centre) spans some 56 hectares.

Paul says, “I am simply a caretaker and hope to leave the assets of land and cash in a better position than when I found them. If I do that, I have done my job right.”

That means enhancing the environment too. “I was on a conference call the other day and looked out the window and there were two kingfishers and a wood pigeon… how cool is that right in the centre of the city?  You look at them and know, ‘that’s what we have to protect.’”

The local community is also welcomed to walk their dogs or just themselves, in a safe, picturesque environment surrounded by 100-year-old trees.

ARC & EEC also have a solid base of money invested that returns an income. The income allows both security & financial independence and is invested back into facilities. Recent investments have included a $7 million stabling complex to rival any in Australasia; plus the introduction of all-new venue hire space, Tote on Ascot, which was the result of a painstaking redevelopment of what were most recently the Club’s stables, but originally the Club’s totalisator building that has been standing since 1885.

Also new are several raceday hospitality precincts, including The Enclosure, Martini Henry Lounge, The Paddock and mini marquee villages.  Each new space is targeted towards a particular consumer group and all of which have been positively received, with sell-outs across racedays they feature on.

The future is looking bright for Ellerslie Event Centre and Auckland Racing Club – that old cliché “no two days are ever the same,” could not be more apt!  And it’s paying dividends.

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