Who we are
Founded in 1875, the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA) is an independent, not-for-profit member based association that has freehold title to the iconic Brisbane Showgrounds.
The RNA’s charter is to celebrate and champion the essential role agriculture plays in the everyday lives of Queenslanders.
It aims to provide a vibrant destination with leading educational and event facilities and activities that capture the hearts and minds of all Queenslanders, from the country to the city.
Governed by 21 elected Councillors, the RNA represents more than 5,000 members across Queensland and further afield, many whose families have been involved with the RNA for generations.
The Brisbane Showgrounds
The historic Brisbane Showgrounds is a world-class events and lifestyle precinct, located on the fringe of the city's CBD.
It's home to the state-of-the-art Royal International Convention Centre (Royal ICC), a four and a half star Rydges Hotel and vibrant King Street dining hub, making it a sought-after and leading events destination.
Whether it’s an intimate gathering for 20 or an event for 25,000, the Brisbane Showgrounds offers the largest and most versatile range of indoor and outdoor venues in Queensland, to suit any occasion or budget.
From corporate functions to music festivals, almost 300 events hosting a total of one million people are staged at the Showgrounds each year, including Queensland’s largest event the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka).
Events held at the Brisbane Showground’s Royal ICC are sure to impress with their exceptional menus. It’s the ONLY centre in Australia offering award-winning food and wine carefully selected from the RNA's prestigious Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show (RQFWS) and iconic Ekka.
Like all leading event precincts, the 140 year old Brisbane Showgrounds is constantly improving and evolving. Stage three of the RNA's $2.9 billion Brisbane Showgrounds Regeneration Project is underway, ensuring the precinct is a year round destination for the community. More details about the project can be found here.
With its venue flexibility and team of dedicated and experienced professionals, the Brisbane Showgrounds has fast gained a reputation for staging incredible and memorable events.
Etched into history
Always reflecting the society growing around it, the Brisbane Showgrounds has long been an integral element of Queensland life.
The rich history of this iconic and revered site is etched into Queensland's social heritage.
Every generation from the very first Ekka in 1876 to today, has warm memories of attending an event here or witnessing history.
From watching American aviator Arthur Burr Stone land on the Main Arena during the first flight ever over Brisbane, to the Showgrounds being used as a World War II field hospital.
Who can forget the world's greatest batsman Sir Donald Bradman making his test debut or those who saw a little known band called Powderfinger perform at the iconic Livid Festival in 1997.
The Brisbane Showgrounds continues to evolve and innovate to ensure the next generation can experience and capture lifelong warm memories.
Click here for more information on the history of the Brisbane Showgrounds.
The Brisbane Showgrounds Heritage Trail
Please click here to download the Brisbane Showgrounds Heritage Trail map.
Information on each trail point:
1. The Old Museum has had an extensive history with the Brisbane Showgrounds. It was constructed in 1891 for the RNA after the Brisbane Exhibition Building was destroyed by fire on 13 June, 1888. Originally called the Exhibition Building and Concert Hall, it was built by Brisbane architect George Henry Male Addison using approximately 1.6 million bricks. The Queensland Government took control of the building and grounds in 1897 after the RNA was forced into liquidation as a result of economic depression. It returned home to Ekka in 2016 after 119 years, forming a new precinct for the 10 days.
2. The RNA was established in 1875, with the first show held in 1876. An almost unbroken history of 140 years of Exhibitions had begun. The foundation stone for the Industrial Pavilion was laid on 5 March, 1937, and the iconic Pavilion with its decorative façade of red brickwork played an important role in the Exhibition since it opened in 1939. It also served as the popular showbag pavilion. While it was recently transformed, the original brickwork and design elements have been incorporated into what is now known as the Royal International Convention Centre.
3. The Main Arena is perhaps the most recognised and frequented site at the Brisbane Showgrounds. It bears the marks of competition and entertainment, the imprint of feet and hooves, fireworks and Grand Parades, which have all helped shape the history of the Showgrounds. In addition to some of Australia’s most talented riders, bovine and equine royalty, fireworks, race cars and processions, the Main Arena has also seen legendary sports matches, the first inter-colonial QLD and NSW tennis game, motorcycle speedway races and the first aeroplane flight ever seen in Brisbane. It is the true heartbeat of the Ekka.
4. The Brisbane Showgrounds has always championed Queensland’s prosperity and brought together country and city. It’s also proudly patriotic, which was evident during times of war. From the Boer War to the Second World War, the Showgrounds has played a pivotal role in supporting the war efforts including providing training camps for Queensland soldiers in WW1, accommodation for American troops, medal presentations for war veterans and returned servicemen, and as an isolation hospital during the Spanish Influenza epidemic. The Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) was cancelled twice, for the Spanish Influenza and in 1942 during the Second World War.
5. The historic Ernest Baynes Stand was opened in 1923, to replace the original grandstand erected in 1885. Designed by architect Richard Gailey Jnr, it was constructed of a steel frame faced with brick and sat up to 7,000 people in its two tiers. It was named in honour of Brisbane businessman Ernest Baynes, who had been a Council member, the Chairman and then the President from 1924 to 1930. It boasted a dining room under the Stand with seating for 700 people, the latest cooking appliances, and an electric dishwasher capable of washing and drying 800 plates in 15 minutes.
6. More than 30 million people have travelled to the Brisbane Showgrounds since the very first Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) in 1876, when crowds made their way by horse, private carriage and omnibus. Almost a decade later, in 1885, a horse-drawn tram service commenced. The last tram service to the show ran in 1967. Trains were also a popular transport choice with the original Exhibition station built in 1881. A new station opened in 1967 and it was refurbished in 1992. Today, Exhibition railway station is still used during Ekka and occasionally operates when other events are held at the Showgrounds.
7. Sideshow Alley is known for its thrills - a place where people enjoy the rides and games at the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka). The area first came about in 1877, when a merry-go-round featured at the second ever show. By the 1908 show, Sideshow Alley was well established with a giant wheel, merry-go-round and entertainment. In 1969, the first Skymaster Ferris Wheel was introduced and remains an iconic attraction. In 2000, the Inner City Bypass was constructed and Sideshow Alley was redeveloped. Today, it features rides, games and showbags during Ekka and is used as an event space.
8. From the first Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) in 1876, cattle competitions have been a highlight. The first show featured three breeds of beef cattle - Durham, Hereford and Devon – and ribbons were awarded for first and second. Today, almost 30 breeds and an average of 1,600 head of beef cattle descend on the Brisbane Showgrounds during Ekka to be paraded, judged and displayed. The Stud Beef Competition is the largest showing of stud beef in the Southern Hemisphere while the Dairy Cattle Competition, attracting an average of 250 animals, is one of the largest showings of dairy cattle in Australia.
9. The John MacDonald Stand is the earliest surviving ringside structure. It was designed by Brisbane architect Claude William Chambers and erected in 1906 for the sum of £6248. In 1923, it was re-named in honour of John MacDonald, who was the RNA Chairman from 1901–1920. The brick structure features an ornate dome with a four-faced clock, visible from almost every part of the Exhibition Ground. In 1985, the stand underwent refurbishment, however the arc of the central bay still boasts the name JOHN MACDONALD STAND and shades its thousands of occupants while they watch events in the Main Arena.
10. Horses have been competing at the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) since the very first Ekka in 1876. At this show, silver cups were awarded to the best stallion and best heavy draught stallion. Today, the Horse Competition attracts an average of 2,500 entries, making it one of the largest Ekka competitions. More than 15 breeds of horses are displayed over the many competition sections. In 1898, Showjumping was one of the most spectacular attractions held in the Main Arena, drawing large crowds. In 2006, Thoroughbred Day was introduced, to showcase the beauty and versatility of thoroughbred horses.
11. John Reid Pavilion is the oldest building in the Brisbane Showgrounds, dating back to the early 1900s. It was designed by architect William Hodgen and built in Toowoomba in 1904. Originally named the Austral Hall, the building was purchased and re-erected at the Showgrounds in 1917. The building was renamed the John Reid Pavilion in 1919, following the death of well-respected business leader John Reid. The John Reid Annexe, constructed in 1925, is situated behind the pavilion and is part of the John Reid complex. Today, John Reid Pavilion is used as a venue space for events at the Showgrounds.
12. King Street is a 300 metre street linking St Pauls Terrace and Gregory Terrace. Construction commenced in 2014, as part of the RNA’s $2.9 billion Brisbane Showgrounds Regeneration Project. The nine-storey Kingsgate commercial tower was the first building to open on King Street in June, 2015. Major milestones were also reached in February, 2016, with the street opening to traffic, and Rydges Hotel featuring a bar and restaurant opening for business. This was the first year onsite accommodation could be offered to Showgrounds guests. More restaurants began opening from August, 2016, transforming the street into a vibrant dining precinct.
"We were delighted to host a recent fundraising event at the Royal International Convention Centre. The venue is a fantastic modern space, suitable for a wide variety of events or conferences. The staff here are wonderful to work with, going above and beyond to ensure the fluidity during planning stages and the event execution. All of our attendees thoroughly enjoyed the venue and in particular, they had such positive feedback about the catering."
Claire Hughes, Mater Foundation
"Every part of planning and running our event at the Royal International Convention Centre was seamless and easy. From initial site inspections to the on the day logistics, the team handled every request with ease and the event ran without any difficulties. When running large events it is so important to have a venue and staff that are engaged and responsive which is exactly what we found with the team at the Royal ICC. The renovated facilities are exceptional and we were incredibly happy with the flexibility that the venue provides in creating a tailored space for our event. We can't wait to return!"
Megan Denton, Allianz Australia Insurance
"In June this year we were facing a major dilemma. Severe weather was forecast on the day of our huge outdoor event which was to be held in three days time. The Royal International Convention Centre was the first place I called to get help and I'm so glad I did. Their team went into immediate action and helped us to move the whole event to their beautiful indoor venue. They did almost everything. All I had to do was to let everyone know that the venue had changed. There was someone to help us promote it. Someone to organise the food, the stall holders, the bump in and bump out and there was another wonderful team helping us on the day. I've never met such helpful, friendly, nice people. I was so happy with the outcome that I booked Royal ICC for next year's event and hope to hold it there for many years to come."
Fiona Phillips, Yoga Festival
"Since mid 2013, Your Local Wedding Guide has been pleased to call The Royal International Convention Centre home to our largest bridal expo, Your Local Wedding Guide Brisbane Bridal Expo. The Royal International Convention Centre has added it's own charm to our event and its spaciousness has allowed us to continue to grow to be one of Brisbane's leading Bridal Expos. We enjoy working with staff of the Royal International Convention Centre and look forward each year to planning our bi-annual wedding expos with the help of their professional and personable staff."
Susan Vink, Your Local Wedding Guide
“WOW, what an amazing group of people you have there. They were so professional and helpful and made everything run so easily and smoothly. The team that flew in from FNQ were blown away by the venue and the dinner. Thanks so much for making everything hassle free.”
K Wadas, Bunnings
“Our event was a huge success, partly because of the turnout of customers but also the facilities were fabulous. Easy to reach, ample parking and the layout was perfect for our display and breakout rooms. The service was exceptional and the food, couldn't fault it. Overall our experience was much more than we anticipated. A huge thank you to all the staff who helped us make this the success it was. We will definitely be back.”
L Brigden, UPG Solutions
We had the pleasure of working with the professional and dedicated Royal ICC team for a recent four-day conference. Every part of the planning and running of the event was seamless. Our experience was more than we anticipated and we would highly recommend the Royal ICC to any organisation looking to run a well-managed and successful conference. A huge thank you to all the staff involved.
Roslyn Connor, Iceberg Events