Work has finished on Blackpool's £30m Winter Gardens conference centre

Work has finished on the £30m new conference and exhibition centre which will host the spring Conservative Party conference in the resort

By Lucinda Herbert
Saturday, 12th February 2022, 5:45 am
Updated Monday, 14th February 2022, 3:24 pm

£30m has gone into developing the new Winter Gardens conference centre and it’s metropolitan exterior is a sign of a town with big ambition.

The building feels cavernous as I enter the wide glass doors on Leopald Grove, but it will soon be bustling with people as it hosts its first event - the Magic Convention on the 17th Feb 2022.

It all feels so fresh - the plush grey tiled carpet without a scuff mark in sight, to the brilliant white walls. There's still the faint whiff of emulsion as I pass through.

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Escalators leading to the top floor of the new Winter Gardens conference centre. The original wall for the Empress Ballroom.

Yet, the rich heritage of this Blackpool landmark has been honoured. A red brick wall stands untouched, in stark contrast to the sleek whites and trendy greyscale hues. Double doors lead to the recently refurbished Empress Ballroom so this can all be used as one single venue and it's clearly signposted throughout.

The building has two large halls - the upstairs holds 1,500 people and the ground floor holds 500 people. When integrated with the wider Winter Gardens’ complex, it creates an overall delegate capacity of 7,000.

The upstairs space is versatile - it could be used as one large hall with a stage, or divided into four separate rooms. It has fully soundproof sliding walls to prevent noise slippage between partitions.

The balcony feels bright and airy with vertical window panels letting in plenty of light.

One of the conference rooms available for use.

There’s a lighting rig and i-pad controlled projector screen in each room and it’s all been built with hybrid-working in mind.

The building is also wheelchair accessible with a lift and hoist, plenty of toilets and changing facilities, and disabled toilets for both left and right use.

Blackpool Winter Gardens once hosted all the major political conferences but as bigger and better venues opened in Manchester and Liverpool, the resort couldn’t compete.

Now the largest venue of its kind in the North, Anthony Williams, the marketing manager for the Winter Gardens, said this could put Blackpool back on the map.

The entrance lobby on the ground floor of the new conference centre

He said: “The ambition is to attract the full size conferences again in time.

Not just political conferences, but also trade shows and specialist groups. Things like e-gaming events and TED talks.

Organisers have always resisted Blackpool because we haven’t had the modern facility to come into but this is purpose built and ready made for them.”

There are also plans for a new 160 bedroom hotel to be built and connected to the conference centre balcony which will create a secure bubble, making it a more attractive space for large scale events.

The balcony can be used as extra office space or dressing rooms.

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The first floor corridor