Academy rises to the challenge of size and sustainability

By Lorraine Day Due its size and variability of areas, the 26-hectare Adelaide Showground precinct in Wayville presents special challenges for national commercial company Academy Services. It has been cleaning all the facilities and undercover exhibition, event and function areas since 2001, with the exception of one year. Owned and managed by the Royal Agricultural […]

By Lorraine Day

Due its size and variability of areas, the 26-hectare Adelaide Showground precinct in Wayville presents special challenges for national commercial company Academy Services. It has been cleaning all the facilities and undercover exhibition, event and function areas since 2001, with the exception of one year.

Academy Cleaning, Adelaide
From left, Mark Hoffman, David Quick, Lesley Cooke and Steph Henderson

Owned and managed by the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society (RAHS), a not-for-profit organisation since 1839, the showground and buildings moved to the current site in 1925.

In 2008 the new Adelaide Event and Exhibition Centre (AEEC) was opened in the precinct, a redevelopment of the site to replace the historical Centennial Hall, built in 1936 to commemorate South Australia’s centenary year and demolished in 2007 after succumbing to concrete cancer.

Historically, Centennial Hall over the years has reverberated to the sounds of The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey, Louis Armstrong, Manfred Mann, Chubby Checker, Gene Pitney, Dave Brubeck, the Boston Pops Orchestra and scores of other artists, as well as being an examination venue for University of Adelaide and University of South Australia students.

The arena, in addition to the annual Royal Adelaide Show, has been used for district football, speedway and harness racing.

The AEEC is Adelaide’s largest multi-purpose venue offering spectacular world-class event spaces in four large pavilions ranging in area from 6400 metres to 8750 sq m, for exhibitions, trade events or concerts, in addition to other conference, meeting, theatre and cocktail areas, including windows and glass surfaces.

There is also 2400 sq m of outdoor plaza areas that can be used in conjunction with other facilities, and on-site parking space for 2000 cars.

Academy’s South Australian operations manager, Lesley Cooke, said it is a beautiful place to work. “It’s not normal everyday cleaning; there are huge areas and different surfaces,” she said.

“Our favourite space is the Goyder Pavilion – it’s the newest building. There are also a couple of older buildings to clean, including the grandstand.

“The evening crew do the administration offices Monday to Friday, and then there are the events, often back to back, when we could have from 10 to 30 staff working, ‘bumping in and bumping out’.

“We are learning all the time, and understanding the different events and what’s required.

“We used to hire some equipment, but now have our own machines. The carpet areas used to take six hours and four people with back packs to clean, now we use a large machine,” she explained.

Following completion of this year’s Royal Adelaide Show two weeks ago, Academy’s team was preparing the Goyder Pavilion, which housed the horticulture and garden displays, in preparation for the next event.

Where garden box displays were situated, the surrounding carpet tiles have to be lifted individually to clean underneath where dirt has spread.

Sustainable cleaning

“Straw and dirt on carpet is the worst thing,” Cooke noted. “The straw, in particular, sticks to the carpet. We have to first rake it with heavy duty yard brooms and then use the ride-on sweeper, and finally touch up with a back-pack vacuum.

“Sustainable cleaning is a relatively new challenge – but we try to stay green.

“Harsher chemicals are only used when absolutely necessary, but they are quite safe if used correctly.”

When the Show is not on, some of the buildings are regularly used for other purposes including a practice theatre for SA Opera, basketball, RM Williams’ sales, and so on.

Academy’s full-time onsite supervisor Steph Henderson said no-one thinks of how big the site is any more. “We just get on and do it. Some weekends there can be up to six events at one time.”

Apart from straw, Henderson said the worst thing to deal with is chewing gum and redskins. “It has to be scraped off first, and then steam cleaned with a special machine which has multiple uses; we call it the ‘bubble-gum buster’ but it is also good for cleaning walls, doors and other areas.”

According to Cooke, the Royal Show and the Big Day Out events are the greatest challenges. “There could be 30,000 to 40,000 people in one day. We start three weeks before the Show right through until about six weeks after. During the Show, the toilets and showers are cleaned every night, as are the pavilions. We don’t clean the animal areas, only initially before the Show.”

Outside areas are also a big challenge during these events and Academy’s full-time site manager David Quick, said that during the Royal Adelaide Show, large road sweepers are hired overnight to clean the car parks and outdoor plaza areas between midnight and 6 am.

Adelaide Showground’s Jason Hemingway took over the role of venue manager five years ago. “The first thing I did was reinstate Academy Services,” he stated.
“They do a fantastic job, especially during the Show, every night they are responsible for keeping the place pristine and ready for the next day.”

With about half a million people passing through the precinct over nine days for the Show, Academy’s general manager, Mark Hoffman, said they had about 120 staff a day working there.

“Lesley has been with Academy and managed the site since we started the contract and David came from the Adelaide City Council about five years ago.

“It works like clockwork now,” he enthused, “and we are able to keep the same level of service and continuity even with a high proportion of casual workers during the larger events.”

This year, just prior to the Royal Adelaide Show, Academy had an extra and unexpected challenge, taking over two new major contracts about the same time – the Adelaide City Council and Golden Grove Village Shopping Centre – following the collapse of the Reflections Group.

In addition to the annual Royal Adelaide Show and the prestigious Royal Adelaide Wine Show, the RAHS hosts about 150 events a year in various facilities on the site. There are nine major events scheduled for the last three weeks of October, most over two or three days.

Eco-friendly Goyder Pavilion

Since completion of the eco-friendly Goyder Pavilion, the Adelaide Showground complex is on track to become energy and water neutral, and striving to become one of the most environmentally sustainable exhibition venues in the Asia Pacific.

With 9239 sq m of solar panels installed on six buildings, the Adelaide Showground Solar Power Generator is one of the largest urban solar power projects in Australia, capable of producing 1400 Megawatt hours of electricity annually, or 40 percent of the site’s total average annual power needs.

Apart from saving an estimated $126,000 the solar power system is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1400 tonnes annually.

When the Showground is not hosting major events, the system will export surplus to the grid, providing power to neighbouring houses and businesses.

In addition, a 3.5 million-litre underground water tank captures storm water run-off from all roof surfaces for re-use on the site and, following recent rains, the tanks are almost full.


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