Phil Mead – head of arenas in NEC Group,
Chris Hill – head of the NIA Refurbishment Project and
Chris Pile – marketing & communications for the NIA project.
The NIA is 21 years old and needs to refresh its physical image to maintain its status in today’s more competitive ‘arenas’ sector (there were only five arenas in the country when it was built and there are now more than eleven).
NIA has now virtually finished the pre-construction planning phase and about to start the 18-24 months building project (cost £22 million). First works (which will not be visible from outside) will start by end of January 2013. There was no announcement of the prime contractor.
The conditions attached to the Planning consent include a Sect 106 agreement; the principal element of this was support for transportation Interconnect works.
The construction project is designed to avoid closing the arena. Those works (e.g. replacing seating) which necessarily involve the arena will be done during summer ‘shut-down’ periods in each of 2013 and 2014. The replaced seats will have higher backs allowing the existing rails to be removed and thereby give more leg-room.
Among elements of the plan which caught my attention were:-
– the much increased enclosed facade will massively change the external appearance; it is expected, also, to retain visitors for longer which may help to spread the periods during which vehicles leave the car parks;
– they will significantly increase toilet capacity;
– funding is aided through the sponsorship deal with Barclaycard, who will acquire naming rights across the NEC group, but the ‘NIA’ name is retained. All funding is through the private sector; there is no public funding.
Chris Pile announced a number of communications initiatives:-
– the ‘Bigger Picture’ monthly newsletter;
– Email communications to everyone that wants to know, and supplies their email address
– ‘future.thenia.co.uk’ website is now live and includes an active timeline of building activities.
– they aim to become a better neighbour and are actively involving Nelson Primary School.
– the next monthly public meeting will be January 16th 2013.
In response to questions:-
– Barclaycard brings customer information, as well as funding.
– Ticket prices set by promoter, not by NEC or Barclaycard.
– Community Hall is essentially unaffected but they intend to beef up its profile – new GM.
– Only slight increase in seating capacity – max 800 in 14000.
– Why not manage car park exiting better? (NIA staff claim that it is always managed with major events, but smaller events not actively managed.)