IN a matter of weeks the most prominent part of the former Morisset Golf Course's $235 million transformation into an events and tourism hub is expected to take shape. The "sound shell" for Cedar Mill Lake Macquarie's stage was shipped from China last week. It will be the centrepiece of the ambitious 30,000-seat, 28-hectare outdoor venue, which aims to become a major destination in Australia's live music touring circuit for international acts. The site will also include cafes, restaurants, a splash-park and gardens, accommodation and an over-55s style residential park. The venue is on track to begin hosting concerts in late 2024. It will be the first of Cedar Mill's planned venues. "It's looking at arriving on site in the not-too-near future, so people moving past that location in the coming months will see that structure take place," Winarch Group's newly-appointed chief operating officer, Melissa Truscott, tells Weekender. "Me, being a resident of the area too, it's pretty exciting. I've been driving through the Cedar Mill site for 18 months and it'll be nice to actually see that frame. "I visited the site last week and all of the concrete pylons have been included now, so that's progressing." There's been a flurry of development of late in regards to the Newcastle-based Winarch Group, which includes the events and tourism precinct operator, Cedar Mill, and property developer Winarch Capital under its umbrella. In March the company announced plans to develop three outdoor entertainment venues in Sydney based at the Domain in the CBD, Parramatta and at the new city of Bradfield near the future Western Sydney Airport. Winarch Group also purchased 100 acres in Victoria's Yarra Valley in 2022 where they plan to build an outdoor entertainment venue. Plans are also underway to build a 20,000-capacity amphitheatre and wine museum in Pokolbin, called Cedar Mill Hunter Valley, on the corner of Broke and McDonalds roads, adjacent to winery and outdoor music venue Hope Estate. The new NSW Labor Government has pledged $250,000 to develop the business case for the venues as part of its $103 million live music rescue package. Once complete Winarch's Cedar Mill portfolio of venues would make the company a major player on the Australian touring circuit. In theory, Winarch would have the scope to work with promoters to book major acts exclusively. "At this stage it's too early to put a number on it [per year], but we are aiming to bring a multitude of music and lifestyle events to the area that we are really excited about," Winarch's founder and managing director, Paul Lambess, says. What it certainly will do is heat up competition in the Hunter market for major live events. In the two decades Pokolbin's Hope Estate, Bimbadgen and Roche Estate have almost had a monopoly on premium shows like The Rolling Stones, The Killers, Crowded House and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. A common chagrin of fans is Pokolbin's lack of public transport and infrastructure for major events which attract up to 20,000 people to the rural area. In January Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium held two Elton John concerts and the Broadmeadow venue, despite some opening night bus issues, was deemed an overwhelming success. McDonald Jones Stadium is scheduled to host US pop star Pink next February and is approved to hold six concerts per year. Truscott says one of Cedar Mill Lake Macquarie's biggest advantages is geography. Situated close to Morisset train station and the M1 Freeway, she says it'll attract music fans from Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle. "I think the fact it's so close to the train station will be such a game-changer and appealing to people rather than making that commute up and down the M1," she says. Truscott also sees Cedar Mill Lake Macquarie as an opportunity for the south-western corner of the lake to finally realise its potential. "There's a big target market, particularly in the south-west of Lake Macquarie," Truscott says. "I follow a lot of the community forums and things like that and the council is often criticised for the investment in the north of the lake like Warners Bay, Speers Point and Belmont, so the fact we're gonna be getting access to these sorts of events in the south-west of the lake will be really appealing for the community. "I have a lot of family and friends who live and work around the lake, and Central Coast as well, and they see this as a great opportunity for the region, as opposed to having to make that commute down to Sydney or up to Newcastle." Five years ago Truscott visited friends at Bonnells Bay and immediately fell in love with the western side of Lake Macquarie. "We started looking for a house the very next day," she says. Before joining Winarch Truscott spent more than 15 years working in the gaming industry with Tabcorp and then 17 years in property development. After several years of commuting between western Lake Macquarie and Sydney, the Winarch COO role provided the opportunity to make a permanent move. "I love what they're doing," she says. "For me, I was out with friends for dinner on Saturday night and they all live in Bonnells Bay and they were quizzing me about what's going on? "They said they knew 20 years ago that one day people would recognise the benefit of this part of the lake. It looks like it's finally happening. "I love what they're doing from a community perspective. I have friends who come up and visit from Sydney and they fall in love with it. It's such an unknown part of NSW. "People tend to bypass it and go straight up to Newcastle and beyond. Lake Macquarie is just a beautiful part of Australia." At present Winarch's headquarters are in Honeysuckle, with smaller offices at Morisset, Pennant Hills, Botany and Melbourne. Truscott had been tasked with overseeing Winarch's transition from its current 45 employees into a major events and property juggernaut. "We're right at the tipping point to go gang-busters," she says. "We'll be growing it at a very exponential rate when we get ready to go live."