ACC Liverpool has secured £40m to create a purpose-built exhibition facility alongside Echo Arena and the BT Convention Centre.
The exhibition space will consist of three interconnected and pillar-free halls of 2,700sqm apiece, or 8,100sqm in total. Each hall will offer adjustable ceiling heights to provide flexibility for other event formats such as banquets and concerts. The proposed plan includes an adjacent 200-bed hotel, covered walkway and concourse, and a sky bridge connecting the exhibition halls, hotel, Arena and Convention Centre.
ACC Liverpool expects final architectural design and planning approval to be achieved within 18 months, with work commencing on the site in early 2013 and live exhibitions taking place from September 2014. The venue is being built via a partnership of Liverpool City Council and ACC Liverpool and managed by the existing ACC Liverpool team.
Echo Arena Liverpool GM Tim Banfield told EN it is keen to work with UK exhibition organisers to determine the best facilities and services to deploy. He spied opportunity for both national and smaller regional organisers at the new site.
“The North West is undersupplied by exhibition space,” Banfield claimed. “There are no purpose-built facilities in Liverpool city; up until EventCity’s launch there was only 10,000sqm at Manchester Central.
“We want to open up Liverpool to the exhibition industry and give organisers the opportunity to hold shows in our city.”
At present, ACC Liverpool offers 7,125sqm of exhibition space split across the Echo Arena floor and the BT Convention Centre. Its financial director Gerald Andrews said it had turned away significant exhibition business because of the venue’s inability to provide consistency of dates and space. As well as attracting standalone exhibitions, the extra space will also give the venue the opportunity to secure larger international confex-style business, he said.
ACC Liverpool opened in 2008 and has contributed £400m in economic benefit to date, or £100m per annum, Andrews said. As previously reported in EN, ACC Liverpool submitted its exhibition centre project to the City Council in early 2010 after a feasibility study revealed opportunities for more standalone exhibition business in the region.
The site of the new exhibition centre was originally earmarked for mixed property development but fell through at the onset of the recession. The land is owned by Homes and Communities Agency (formerly English Partnerships), which also owns the ACC Liverpool site.
The next step is to appoint the building and design team. Banfield said the development will need to take into consideration ACC Liverpool’s historic waterfront location and proximity to the World Heritage-listed Albert Docks.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we want to ensure we give organisers everything they need to put on quality exhibitions,” Banfield said. He anticipated the venue could attract 40 to 45 trade and consumer exhibitions annually within its first three years of operation.
“The big-scale exhibitions have contracted and split into more niche events, but I do think the national market has shrunk disproportionately compared to the regional one,” Banfield continued. “With our new space, we’ll have smaller halls for organisers to start with, and a venue that allows them to grow into bigger exhibitions in the future.
“We believe 2,700sqm is a sustainable hall size for Liverpool and the right size for the regional market.”
According to the leader of the Liverpool City Council Joe Anderson, the news is a huge statement of confidence in Liverpool. “A new state-of-the-art exhibition hall will enhance the excellent waterfront facilities of the Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre, making Liverpool a top UK venue for exhibitions, events and conferences,” he said.
From left: David McDonnell; chair of ACC Liverpool, Ged Fitzgerald; CEO Liverpool City Council, Joe Anderson; Leader of Liverpool City Council and Bob Prattey; CEO ACC Liverpool.
See below for EN’s exclusive footage of the announcement: