Full plans to build a conference and exhibition centre as part of the Winter Gardens complex have been revealed and, if realised, could put Blackpool back in the conference premier league.
The £25m project has been outlined by developers and the planned new conference centre will increase the capacity of the Winter Gardens, allowing it to host over 7,000 delegates.
Construction could start in winter 2017 if multi-million pound funding bids to the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and the Coastal Communities fund are successful.
A planning application submitted 1 December by architects Bisset Adams finally revealed the scale of the development; including how the new centre will link up with the existing complex and the how the style of the new construction will complement the heritage of the current buildings.
The new centre would be built on the site of the former car park on Leopold Grove.
Councillor Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, described the development as “a really exciting step forward in upgrading the Winter Gardens to a conference venue fit for the 21st century”.
“We already know the Empress Ballroom and the Opera House provide perfect venues for keynote speakers and housing delegates, but to have a proper exhibition and welcoming space is exactly what is needed to try and bring major league conferencing back to the resort,” the councillor added.
One concern for developers is the question of maintaining the heritage of the Winter Gardens building within the new build.
In their design statement, Bisset Adams stated: “The conference centre is planned to be of a scale and quality to attract the highest level conference trade, restoring Blackpool’s pre-eminence in this area”.
New conference space for 1,200 delegates is part of the new plan, with additional ground floor exhibition space able to hold around 380 people.