North East gets £200m conference and exhibition centre boost

A new multi-million-pound, state of the art entertainment arena, and conference and exhibition centre is set for the North East, as plans by Gateshead Council push forward.

Gateshead Council, in partnership with property developers Ask Real Estate and investment and development manager PATRIZIA UK, are working with SMG Europe, a world leader in venue management to bring a 12,500 seat arena, and conference and exhibition facilities featuring 10,300sqm to Gateshead Quays. The project would mean the relocation of the existing Metro Radio Arena owned and managed by SMG.

The 10-acre site, which sits directly opposite the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and between the area’s most iconic buildings, Sage Gateshead and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, is planned to include an entertainment arena, conference and exhibition centre, hotel, bars and restaurants. The idea is to create a vibrant new destination on the waterfront with easy access to the Quays, Gateshead Town Centre, Newcastle and the wider region.

The new facilities on Gateshead Quays, which will be capable of holding major music and cultural events, as well as conferences and exhibitions, are anticipated to attract an extra 296,000 visitors to the region with an estimated boost of over £29.5m annually to the regional economy in future years.

NewcastleGateshead’s conference and events industry is a major contributor to the local visitor economy, which is currently worth £1.9bn.

NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, based at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, markets the area to conference and event organisers, and its head of business tourism Paul Szomoru says: “We’ve long been considered a leading UK destination for hosting conferences and events, with an enviable history of successfully hosting major events, including the spring conferences of the three largest English political parties, UNICEF’s baby-friendly initiative, and NUS national conferences. “Additionally in 2018 we are hosting a number of international conferences, such as the European Thyroid Association 2018 and Explore GB, which will see delegates from across the globe descend on NewcastleGateshead to learn more about the whole of Britain as a destination for both business and leisure visits.

“While we consistently ‘punch above our weight’ as a destination, what we have always needed to enable us to attract the biggest major international conventions is a large flat floor space capable of holding exhibitions and dinners for over 1,000 people, with suitable breakout space for events of 1,000+ people.

“We’ve always had the ambition and the strength of voice, and the announcement of plans to develop a dedicated conference and events space on Gateshead Quays will help us fulfil our ambitions to cement NewcastleGateshead’s place on the international map.”

Gateshead Council Leader, Martin Gannon adds: “We’ve wanted to regenerate and revitalise this key site on Gateshead Quays for a long time and internationally recognisable facilities of this scale have always been our long-term aspiration.

“Not only will they bring new life to the area but they will bring new jobs and significantly boost the local and regional economy. An arena and conference and exhibition facility will also play an important role in complementing and strengthening demand for national and international conferences, exhibitions and events at Sage Gateshead and BALTIC, as well as acting as a catalyst for wider investment across Gateshead and further stimulating economic growth.

“We’re now more confident than ever that we can finally push forward with our exciting plans for this £200m development site. Working closely with our development partners, SMG Europe, local partners and the private sector, it really is time to give the North East another landmark destination and complete the picture of this truly unique, riverside site.”

SMG Europe, which currently operates the Metro Radio Arena, is a wholly owned subsidiary of SMG which has in excess of 220 venues worldwide. It is anticipated the new 12,500 seat arena, and conference and exhibition space could transform the region’s business tourist economy.

Executive vice-president European operations of SMG, John Sharkey says: “We’ve for some time been looking at increasing our presence in the North East. The Gateshead Quays development site is truly a unique location which will offer visitors a whole new experience. Our new entertainment, conferencing and exhibition facilities, standing shoulder to shoulder with Sage Gateshead and BALTIC, will we firmly believe, further cement Gateshead Quays as a popular and stunning world class cultural destination, whilst bringing significant benefits for the whole region as well as Newcastle and Gateshead.”

Gateshead Council has been working with Ask Real Estate Limited and PATRIZIA UK Limited on this development site since June 2015 when they were selected as preferred developers.

Managing director of Ask Real Estate, John Hughes adds: “This is a very exciting and iconic development site… We’ve done a lot of work to get to this stage but now’s the time to push ahead and help make this development site a reality.”

Daniel Williams, head of development at PATRIZIA UK, says his team is looking forward to bringing its experience working with mixed-use developments in the UK, “as well as drawing on our pan-European investment management capabilities, to what is set to become a modern icon for the North East”.

Sage Gateshead MD Abigail Pogson, says: “These new facilities will be a tremendous boost to Sage Gateshead, building on our international reputation and success in music and hosting major conferences. It will be a fantastic addition to the Quayside and the region and will help further transform the south bank of the Tyne.”

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership: “These new and exciting facilities would help the North East attract many more major exhibitions, conferences and cultural events helping to boost the regional visitor economy and create hundreds of new jobs all of which supports the growth ambitions set out in the North East Strategic Economic Plan and the vision of Gateshead Council to establish Gateshead Quays as a first class destination.”

Next steps for the development site are for a detailed scheme design to be drawn up ahead of pre planning and pre construction phases.

CN has followed previous attempts to get funding for a new NewcastleGateshead convention centre, the last one being abandoned three years ago, despite a £19.5m bid to the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

It seems the area finally has something to shout about with the latest council announcement and backing by the SMG consortium.

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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