The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has today (Saturday 19th March) officially opened Blackpool’s new £30m Winter Gardens Conference and Exhibition Centre. The PM unveiled a plaque in the reception hall of the new building, which is situated within the historic Winter Gardens, on the second and final day of the Conservative Party Spring Conference (pictured below).
The new state-of-the-art conference centre (pictured below) has been designed so that it seamlessly integrates with the Winter Gardens complex. With 2,400 sq metres of dedicated space set over two floors and equipped with cutting-edge audio- visual technology, the new build adds a unique contemporary twist to the Winter Gardens, which first opened in 1878.
With a direct link into the Empress Ballroom, Opera House and Empress Buildings, the new centre has created a hub of 12 distinct venues, giving a total capacity of 7,000 delegates and almost five acres of connected conference, meeting, event and exhibition space.
Built on the site of a former car park, the scheme was facilitated by £17.8m of funding from the Government’s Growth Deal, which is managed by the Lancashire Economic Partnership (LEP), almost £3m from the Coastal Communities Fund and the remainder from Blackpool Council and the Blackpool Entertainment Company Ltd (BECL).
It is the first major building development at the Winter Gardens since the construction of the Opera House in 1939.
After officially opening the centre, the Prime Minister said: ‘It was an honour to open Blackpool’s new conference and exhibition centre in the historic Winter Gardens for the first Conservative Conference here in 15 years. This initiative is at the heart of our levelling up agenda, this new conference centre will make a real difference to boost economic growth and bring opportunities to this great coastal town. I hope this will be the home to many events for years to come, bringing people together from across the UK in the heart of Blackpool.’
Since being acquired by Blackpool Council, the original Winter Gardens buildings are undergoing a multi-million pound upgrade with a new air-conditioning system, improved digital connectivity and extensive refurbishments to restore rooms such as the Floral and Spanish Halls back to their original splendour.
Councillor Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council said: ‘Our ambition in developing a new conference centre alongside the Winter Gardens is to see Blackpool regain its reputation for staging major league conferences.
The return of the Conservative Party for their spring conference this weekend, coupled with the official opening by the Prime Minister, marks the start of that exciting journey. Major conferences in Blackpool bring thousands of delegates in the town centre, who in turn spend money in our local shops, restaurants and hotels, helping our businesses thrive and allowing them to take on new workers. This will be a real game changer for business tourism in Blackpool.’