Home to two spectacular venues, Bill Richardson Transport World and The Handle Bar at Classic Motorcycle Mecca, visitors never fail to notice the considered touches that make their events here memorable.
When Transport World executive director Jocelyn O’Donnell began sketching out the building that would become Bill Richardson Transport World – a building that infused her father’s back sheds, home to the astonishing collection of trucks amassed before his death in 2005, with a purpose-built facility – she had already envisaged including spaces for events and conferences.
Her meticulous planning to transform her father’s appointment-only collection into a public attraction included visiting museums around the world to see what worked and what didn’t.
“I asked them if they could change anything, what would it be – and they all said they would have better events spaces,” she says.
It was a move that made sense. “You’ve already got an amazing setting. You don’t have to dress it – it’s already dressed. Museums have such unique character about them, and the atmosphere is already there.”
The next step in the planning process was visiting a range of other venues. That allowed her to take details, such as the best places for doorways so that catering staff could slip in and out unobtrusively, finding the right kind of air conditioning options (“sometimes they are really distracting when you’re trying to concentrate, so that was top of my wishlist”), and ensuring high-quality amenities such as AV equipment – as well as on-site staff who knew how to operate it – were available.
“There was quite a bit of homework involved. There was a lot of thought that went into setting it all up, because it’s not easy to change afterwards,” she says.
Ensuring the spaces were light and bright, and were versatile and flexible, was also crucial.
“We wanted to be able to cater to a lot of different types of events, so the spaces needed to be able to be really flexible. We also wanted to be able to have a variety of break-out spaces available for some of those bigger conferences, so that was quite important too.”
The sheer size of the HW Richardson Group also played a role in the decision to incorporate an events component into Transport World, O’Donnell says.
“The other side of it was HWR does a lot of staff training and that kind of thing, and here we were going out to other venues to do that. We see Bill Richardson Transport World as a bit of a spiritual home for the company, because the business began here in Southland, and we wanted to be able to bring people here and show them what Southland is all about,” she says.
Events spaces at both Bill Richardson Transport World and Classic Motorcycle Mecca pay homage to their wheeled roots. Visitors always notice the quirky, yet stylish, touches throughout the events spaces – a signature found at all of Transport World’s attractions.
In fact, O’Donnell says one of her favourite features of the events spaces is the signs displaying conference room names at Bill Richardson Transport World: among them Driver’s Den, Engine Room, and Refuel Station.
“I had a lot of fun making those.”