The company, which is developing large swathes of former dockland in Manchester and Liverpool, tells EN its ‘EventCity’ will open with its first exhibition business at the end of February 2011, offering four halls. The facility is currently operating as the Museum of Museums.
Property developer, The Peel Group, is to launch a new 25,000sqm events and exhibition space in Manchester in a massive former Argos warehouse near Trafford Centre.
The first main event will be Great Days Out, a show promoting the North’s tourist sector. The show was previously held at the Bolton Arena. EventCity marketing manager Claire Hewitson says eight consumer trade shows are signed up and confirmed talks about exhibition launches are ongoing with Clarion and Upper Street Events.“We were spurred on by the fact that there isn’t much competition in the North West of England,” says director at The Peel Property Mike Butterworth. “You probably have to go as far as Harrogate in one direction and the NEC in the other.” He promises EventsCity venue will be cheaper than Manchester Central, with three times the exhibition space.
She was adamant no major obstacles remained to prepare the EventCity space for its launch into the world of commercial exhibitions other than “an ongoing programme of upgrading the facility and its technology”. A Tutankhamun exhibition currently occupies the museum space.
“Our order book is expanding,” he says. “To all intents and purposes, EventCity is open.”The Peel Group appears to have found an innovative route through the thorny forest of planning permission needed for an exhibition centre by first opening as a museum. The Trafford Centre, aka ‘Traffic Centre’, has been criticised for its poor transport links, however, and Peel is pushing for a new tram Metrolink line.
Former operations director at Manchester 235 casino, Andy Orr, has been appointed GM and Sarah Mills is the full-time sales manager.
“There appears to be a huge untapped market for exhibitions in the North of England. Manchester Central is very busy but some exhibitions can’t get in, or can’t afford to,” Butterworth adds.
“We do have 11,000 parking spaces at the Trafford Centre and 2,250 spaces around EventCity itself,” Hewitson says. “There is also a shuttle bus service to our venue from Metrolink and we are just 30 seconds off the M60.”Hewitson says EventCity is in talks with more organisers about launching consumer events, based around existing guaranteed footfall from its retail assets. The model is similar to that of the new Bluewater exhibition centre in Kent. The Trafford Centre claims 720,000 visitors per week.
EventCity complements the branding of the nearby MediaCityUK, which Peel is building on Salford Quays and where the BBC is moving large parts of its broadcasting operation.
“We have also found international organisers are showing interest, attracted by size, location and free parking,” says Hewitson. “When we talk rates, it all adds up for them.”“Our development has significantly improved the venue’s market potential for major national and international association conferences and exhibitions,” she said.
Manchester Central did not wish to comment on Peel’s plans other than to stress that Manchester Central itself had enjoyed a record year, “and remains focused on its own activity following redevelopment”. Sales director, Paula Lorimer, said Manchester Central’s £30m redevelopment programme increased the venue’s client facing space from 14,500sqm to 21,000sqm.
The Peel Group is behind the Liverpool Waters project, the largest regeneration project of its kind anywhere in the UK and representing an overall investment of £10bn. The scheme also includes the 55-storey Shanghai Tower, which will be the tallest UK building outside London.