The proposals would see the Council, which owns the Convention Centre, drawing up a business case for remodelling much of the exhibition space to create a progressive event complex which could include new accommodation, retail outlets and leisure facilities on the Kings Road site.
Depending on your point of view, the Harrogate Convention Centre (formerly the Harrogate International Centre) is either an ailing dinosaur of an events facility, being propt up by public money and failing to compete in the current market or a vital part of the Harrogate economy, without which the town would turn into something akin to a deserted seaside resort.
Events at the HCC, Week commencing:
- 21 August – no events
- 28 August – 3 events in the Royal Hall with an estimated of around 1200
- 4 September – 1 event in the Royal and day 1 of the Bridal Show (3,000 visitors over 3 days)
- 11 September – Days 2 and 3 of the Bridal Show, National Acute Pain Symposium conference, Rotary conference and Dinner, day 1 of Floor Show (3,400 estimated over event)
Working to Harrogate Borough Council’s estimate these four weeks, as an average, will contribute £4.6million to the local economy.
The Royal Hall and Crowne Plaza hotel would not be included in any new scheme.
Convention Centre director Simon Kent said agreement on developing the site further would be a ‘positive endorsement in the future of the events industry in Harrogate’.
Simon kent said:
We hope to invite outside organisations to submit ideas. We need fresh thinking and ambition for Harrogate to remain the home of events in the North of England.
Essentially we are open to interesting ideas for part of the site, or even the whole site, with the exception of the historic Royal Hall and newly refurbished Crowne Plaza hotel.
We will be talking to organisers of regular large exhibitions, which come to us every year, to ensure those valuable clients keep coming back to us, as well as building on our successful track record of nurturing smaller events
Harrogate’s visitor economy is vital to the region and we, as a business, contribute an economic impact of £60million to it annually. If the plans are given the go-ahead it will be a really positive endorsement in the future of Harrogate as a national and international event destination.
Simon Kent said the plans were very much at the ‘ideas stage’ and he hoped to see a leisure and event offering which would make the Convention Centre an ‘even bigger driver of Harrogate’s visitor economy’.
The Council will now commission detailed studies into the requirements of the venue and how best to retain current business and attract new business.
As a going concern, emphasis would be placed on minimizing disruption to the Convention Centre’s regular events during any reconstruction work.
Cllr Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said:
This study is about ensuring we not only retain but grow the £60m pumped annually in to our local economy by the Convention Centre.
Because the conference and exhibition world changes we need to change with them and make sure we supply the type of venue and facilities event organisers want. In this way we will stay one step ahead of our competitors and ensure those visitor economy pounds continue to go into the cash registers of local hotels, guest houses and shops and supports jobs.
The recommendations are due to come before the Cabinet on 23 August 2017.