Inside the £83m International Convention Centre Wales tipped to transform Newport’s fortunes

The ICC Wales is due to open this summer and it could mean big things for Newport.

The International Convention Centre Wales is set to open in the summer of this year.

It will be the first of its kind in Wales, with promises of bringing thousands of visitors and events to the country’s third largest city.

The £83m development, a joint venture between the Welsh Government and the Celtic Manor Resort, will provide 26,000 sqm of total floor space for meetings, conferences and exhibitions.

That’s about the size of four international rugby pitches, and could accommodate 5,000 conference delegates at any one time.

But what can Newport expect from the arrival of the ICC Wales?

WICC, Wales Conference & Meeting

Skeptics point to previous major events held at the Celtic Manor, such as the 2010 Ryder Cup and the 2014 NATO Summit, which many perceive benefited Cardiff more than Newport.

Some point to concerns visitors will filter through Newport for events but stay and spend their money in the capital.

Others believe the building itself is unattractive.

Estimates suggest the International Convention Centre could bring £70m into the Welsh economy annually

With much of that income thought to come from the demand for additional hotel beds needed to accommodate an influx of visitors, many hotel developments have been springing up in the city centre.

Jessica Marsh and her husband Simon are planning to open a new hotel on High Street in Newport in a few weeks time.

Hotel 55 will be located inside the former Yates’ wine bar building and will include 62 bedrooms, a bar, cafe, and a restaurant.

The couple signed the lease for the property with the building’s owner and developer Richard Hayward Properties after Premier Inn pulled out of a previous deal.

Jessica said: “Obviously we have known for quite a while what’s going on at the ICC.

“So we know that that’s going to bring a lot of people into the area. We have been speaking to the ICC, that’s a relationship that is already established really.

“It will bring in a lot of good trade to the area, so it’s a really positive situation really.”

Jessica said they are expecting much of their trade to come from ICC conferences, but are also expecting custom from people going to Cardiff by virtue of their close proximity to the train station.

The pair are hoping to employ around 15 people, and are aiming to be open in early March.

“I think it’s going to have such a positive effect on all of the businesses here,” Jessica said.

It’s not the only hotel opening up.

Chartist Tower is currently undergoing a £10m makeover to become a four-star Mercure Hotel.

Chartist-Tower, Wales Hotel

The development will bring a further 163 hotel bedrooms to the city across the building’s 11 floors, with added office and commercial space.

And its opening is scheduled to coincide with the soft opening of the ICC Wales in July.

Many business owners hope that by bringing in visitors who stay in the city centre, the burgeoning bar and restaurant trade in the city will get a kickback from increased custom.

It is a cause for excitement for Paul Young, owner of The Pod restaurant on Clarence Place, who is hoping for a boost in midweek trade. 

“Clarence Place is the gateway to Newport and we are right on that gateway on the bridge,” Paul said.

“People coming from the ICC will be coming that way into Newport so we are in a great location.

“It’s an exciting time for Newport. The place needs more investment and we need to get behind that.”

The convention centre is scheduled for a soft opening in July with their first major event confirmed as the 2019 UK Space Conference in September.

Other large events already in the calendar include the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference in March next year, and more in coming years.

Just over ten years ago, the city of Liverpool were anticipating the opening of their own convention centre space.

The ACC Liverpool comprises the BT Convention Centre as well as the 11,000-seat M&S Bank Arena, and was built on a formerly deserted area of Kings Dock.

Sue Grindrod is CEO of Royal Albert Dock, a historic dock opposite the convention that is now a major multi-use attraction with many bars, restaurants and shops.

“We benefit hugely from the footfall that’s created from the ACC,” Sue said. “When they have events on the dock is absolutely packed.”

 

Published walesonline.co.uk/news, 25 February 2019