As the wait for an international standard convention centre for Wales rumbles on and prevarication continues in Cardiff council, there is at last Welsh Government backing for expanding the conference capacity at Celtic Manor, near Newport to fill the gap.
Celtic Manor says it turns away up to £100m in large conference business which it cannot accommodate.
Local economists have claimed the construction phase alone of such a centre, able to host up to 4,000 delegates, at Celtic Manor would inject £50m into the local economy.
Resort Chairman, billionaire Sir Terry Matthews is set to press the button to start work on the centre after the staging of the Nato summit at the resort in September.
The Celtic Manor has a track record of delivering on big projects, such as the staging the Ryder Cup.
Some voices inside Cardiff council who bridle at the potential cost of a Cardiff ICC have joined the Celtic Manor lobby in arguing for a city-region approach that would see benefits accruing to Newport and Pontypridd too.
Meanwhile, Russell Goodway, Cardiff Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance has been flying the flag for a dedicated convention centre still to be built in Cardiff regardless of plans for a facility in Newport.
He said the council has received 45 responses from organisations relating to plans for an international convention centre, indoor arena and exhibition centre.
The cost of the projects is put at around £150m.
The Cardiff blueprints, so far, are for a convention centre only able to accommodate 1,500 delegates, with the indoor arena having capacity for around 12,000.
Goodway told Wales Online that a full procurement exercise should be concluded by the summer with a view to the facilities, which could be housed under one roof in a multi-purpose venue or in three separate buildings at the same location, being completed by 2016.
He said the convention centre element would not require any funding from the Welsh Government and envisaged the projects being financed through a design, build, finance and operate model which would see risk being transferred to the private sector.
Goodway described the Celtic Manor ICC project as “a lot of media talk and smoke and mirrors”.
“We are not fazed [by the prospect of a convention centre in Newport] and we will deliver on a convention centre and indoor arena for the capital by 2016.”
He added that, for the city region, a convention centre located in Cardiff would have the biggest economic benefit and not one at the Celtic Manor.
“The operators we have spoken to say that the best location [for a convention centre] from Bristol to Cardiff and in between, is Cardiff.”
Chairman of the Cardiff Business Council Nigel Roberts said business should be supportive of Sir Terry Matthews. “We need to get a full understanding of the planned convention centre at the Celtic Manor Resort. We need to be working together.”
He said it was possible that an indoor arena in Cardiff could potentially “double up” as a convention centre.
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