Connect with us

My Weekly Preview

The surfer who reached for the stars

People

The surfer who reached for the stars

Meet Steve Romer The Event Centre, Caloundra’s new GM

Steve Romer has run some of the country’s largest entertainment venues, theme parks and music festivals and mixed with the likes of Elton John, Lady Gaga, Robert Plant and Pink. So taking on the job of general manager of The Events Centre, Caloundra should have been a walk in the park. Instead, he’s busier than ever.

“I started in June, two days before the end of the financial year and we’d been closed by the government since March 24 due to COVID,” Mr Romer says. “At the end of my first week, the government announced theatres could reopen to a 50 per cent capacity and I wanted to lead the way. We put COVID plans in place, got everyone back in the office, spoke with producers and promoters and have become one of the busiest theatres in the state. We’ve done 40 or 50 events since we reopened and when I look through to June 30, we’ve got another 80 events between now and then. It’s just fantastic.

“Out of all the busy, big roles I’ve held in the past, I’ve probably been busier in the last four to five months than I ever have in my career, just getting ourselves ready and open.”

The Events Centre has now returned to 100 per cent capacity for theatrical performances and having celebrated its 40th anniversary on November 28, the venue is riding high after a difficult year.

“Having been in venue management for years, all the big venues were built in the late ’80s and ’90s. The Events Centre was way ahead of its time for a small regional community. It has astounded me how advanced it was. I was talking to a guy who attended his sister’s wedding there, saw Cold Chisel, the Hoodoo Gurus, the Radiators – all the big bands played there. A lot of locals have incredible memories of the Events Centre and when you look at all the opportunities available now, one of the visions I have is I want to double our attendance there.”

Mr Romer has consulted with the Sunshine Coast Arts Foundation and says they are in agreement the Coast needs to do more for the youth market. Mr Romer wants to bring bands and events that appeal to a younger demographic to The Events Centre, while keeping its commitment to seniors and the fine arts.

One initiative he’s spearheaded is the Big Break! in conjunction with SeaFM, an annual battle of the bands style contest showcasing new talent.

“Let me tell you, the Sunshine Coast has got some great emerging artists,” Mr Romer says. “I can’t tell you how many applications Sea FM received for the Big Break! – tonnes.”

One look at his career pedigree and there’s little doubt Mr Romer will achieve his vision for The Events Centre. Originally from Sydney, he started out as a dolphin and sea life trainer and lucked into a coveted role at Atlantis Marine Park in Perth while on a surfing trip around Australia. He followed that up with roles at Taronga Zoo, Sea World and Dreamworld, returning to Sydney to manage the Blacktown International Sportspark for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

He took things up a notch when he became director of operations at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. There, he ran 900 events a year in a venue that contributed $450 million a year to the New South Wales economy. When headhunted to become general manager of the Sydney Entertainment Centre from 2009 to 2013, he was competing with the Super Dome at Sydney Olympic Park.

“We were number 37 in the world according to Billboard and by 2012 we became number two in the world, hosting all the big international concerts.

“We did 600 concerts over that period of time – Rod Stewart, Pink, Lady Gaga, Powderfinger, Cold Chisel. I loved meeting Pink, she held the record for the most consecutive shows – she did 15 or 16 shows. She was such a down-to-earth artist. She had her little kid who was a toddler and her husband and they were always backstage. I’d watch her and she’d kiss her daughter Willow and her husband and it just really resonated with my values.”

Mr Romer was also chief operating officer of Bluesfest and between that and five years at Sydney Entertainment Centre, has mingled with rockstar royalty, including Elton John, who he gifted a star with his name on it. But one band left the biggest impression on him.

“I’m a huge Eagles fan and when I saw The Eagles play, they were playing the soundtrack to my surfing days when I had my 1964 station wagon, my arm out the window and my surfboard on the top. The Eagles have one of the best sound engineers – a sound engineer can make or break a concert – and when they played here in 2010, you could close your eyes and it was completely true to the record.”

A lifelong surfer, Mr Romer has been visiting Bali since 1982. Back in the day, he loved riding his bike through small villages with his board tucked under his arm. It was there that he agreed to become COO of Bluesfest, when the festival’s owner Peter Noble invited him to his home in Canggu.

“He had been asking me to come on board for eight years – it was the longest job interview of my life. He was 68 at that point and it was the 28th Bluesfest. I decided at that time I really needed something new, so I was there for the 29th and 30th festivals. With the 30th being a milestone, we broke every box office record from the previous 29 years.”

The 31st Bluesfest was cancelled due to COVID and Mr Romer decided it was time for a sabbatical. But then the job at The Events Centre came up.

“I spent a lot of my school holidays around Cotton Tree, Maroochydore and Coolum and I’ve always liked to surf here,” he says. “I moved up here and five months in, I’m totally in love with it. I love that it’s small, it’s friendly, it’s got beautiful environmental assets. I’ve been around water all my life and I’m sitting here now in my house in Mooloolaba, overlooking the Mooloolah River. I’ve got Mooloolaba Beach across the road and I have the joy of living in Mooloolaba and the joy of working in Caloundra, which I adore.

“When I first started surfing in Byron Bay in the ’70s, it was a very different town. It has become an arts and culture hub for New South Wales. We’re looking at doing that with Caloundra. It’s going to be very similar, but we’re in the infancy. I’m just really excited to be here at a really important time in the Sunshine Coast’s venture into arts, sport and entertainment.”

mm

Leigh Robshaw is a journalist who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years. Originally from Sydney, she has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Latin America. She joined the team in 2012 and is MWP's deputy editor. Writing, reading and travel are her greatest passions.

More in People

Our Sister Publications

Sunshine Coast News Your Time Magazine Salt Magazine
To Top