Councillors are being asked to agree to spend £1m on the detailed design and project work required to kick-start the redevelopment of the site.
The convention centre is now over 40 years old and showing the signs of its age. Critical infrastructure and equipment is reaching the end of its useful life.
HCC attracts 157,000 visitors a year, has an economic impact totalling £35m (Visit England’s methodology), and supports thousands of jobs across the district.
Many local businesses, from B&Bs and hotels to restaurants rely on the convention centre for their income. For every £1 most attendees spend on their event, another £5 is spent locally, benefiting the wider hospitality trade.
Redeveloping the site is central to the council’s plans to support the recovery of the local economy after the coronavirus, as new events are attracted to Harrogate.
Phase one of the project would focus on improving facilities with the complete refurbishment of the conference centre, auditorium and two of the main halls.
At the same time, new breakout facilities – with a total capacity of 1,850 delegates – would be created by sub-dividing the space known as Studio 2.
Access between internal spaces would also be improved, along with a refreshed look to the outside the of building and public areas inside it.
And, there would upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as electrical and mechanical infrastructure.
This will help achieve long-term savings on energy costs and drastically improve the centre’s environmentally friendly credentials, contributing to the council’s efforts to reduce its overall carbon footprint.
A later phase two would see part of the site demolished to make way for a new 5,000 square metre, entirely flexible, events space.
Under the leadership of director Paula Lorimer, the centre is moving away from a focus on just exhibitions to also include large national association conferences which attract more than 500+ delegates. This will drive a higher economic impact for the district.
Existing events will be protected, but it means new clients can be attracted to Harrogate, North Yorkshire and the wider region.
Councillor Graham Swift, cabinet member for economic development, said:
Harrogate Convention Centre makes such an important contribution to the district’s economy.
It is central to the viability of many hundreds of businesses and our recent experience of lockdown shows just what a positive difference it makes locally.
Redeveloping the centre will make it a much more flexible space that can attract a broader customer base and will have the potential to substantially increase its economic contribution.
It will also enable us to create a unique facility we can all be proud of which also attracts new events to Harrogate, the district and North Yorkshire.
I hope my fellow councillors will support this initial investment that will enable us to get the ball rolling on design and construction plans.
Paula Lorimer, director, Harrogate Convention Centre, said:
Our exciting plans will reinvigorate and re-establish the convention centre.
My ambition is for us to return to the top tier of conference and exhibition centres in the UK as we attract new – and bigger – events in the future.
This will have a significant, positive, impact on the local economy.
This builds on the 2018 work when Harrogate Borough Council appointed property advisor, Cushman & Wakefield to develop a business case and masterplan to identify a preferred option for the future of the Harrogate Convention Centre site.