Prime Minister opens Winter Gardens Conference Centre

Winter Gardens Conference Centre

Blackpool’s new Winter Gardens Conference Centre now occupies the space that was once a split-level car park off Leopold Grove. With new, modern facilities it allows the complex to host up to 7,000 delegates.

It provides modern conferencing facilities including breakout rooms and exhibition spaces. They complement the current rooms such as the Empress Ballroom and the Opera House.

Prime Minister opens Blackpool’s New Winter Gardens Conference Centre

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has officially opened Blackpool’s new £30m conference and exhibition centre.

On Saturday 19 March 2022 he unveiled a plaque in the reception hall of the new building. It was the second and final day of the Conservative Party Spring Conference.

It’s the first time the Conservative Party has staged a major conference in the resort since 2007.

Prime Minister opens Winter Gardens Conference Centre
Prime Minister opens Winter Gardens Conference Centre

After officially opening the centre, the Prime Minister said: “It was an honour to open Blackpool’s new conference and exhibition centre in the historic Winter Gardens for the first Conservative Conference here in 15 years.  

“This initiative is at the heart of our levelling up agenda. The new conference centre will make a real difference to boost economic growth and bring opportunities to this great coastal town.

“I hope this will be the home to many events for years to come. Bringing people together from across the UK in the heart of Blackpool.”

A Contemporary Twist

The new state-of-the-art conference centre has been designed so that it seamlessly integrates with the Winter Gardens complex. 2,400sq metres of dedicated space is set over two floors and equipped with cutting-edge audio-visual technology. The new build adds a unique contemporary twist to the Winter Gardens, which first opened in 1878.

The completed Winter Gardens Conference Centre at Leopold Grove
The completed Winter Gardens Conference Centre at Leopold Grove

With a direct link into the Empress Ballroom, Opera House and Empress Buildings, the new centre has created a hub of 12 distinct venues. Now capable of hosting 7,000 delegates, there’s almost five acres of connected conference, meeting, event and exhibition space.

It’s the first major building development at the Winter Gardens since the construction of the Opera House in 1939.

Since being acquired by Blackpool Council, the original Winter Gardens buildings are undergoing a multi-million pound upgrade. There’s a new air-conditioning system, improved digital connectivity and extensive refurbishments. Rooms such as the Floral and Spanish Halls have already been restored back to their original splendour.

Building the Winter Gardens Conference Centre

Here at Visit Fylde Coast we’ve captured the progress of this town centre building site throughout the works. We start in 2016, before work begins on site, through to completion and opening of the centre in March 2022.

It’s been a difficult and complicated project, to complete this new building in the heart of Blackpool town centre.

Linking to an old, heritage building isn’t the only challenge. It’s in a very tight spot, with very restricted access for plant, equipment, and deliveries. But now it’s finally completed!

Leopold Grove, off Church Street, ready for Blackpool's new conference centre.
Leopold Grove, off Church Street. Taken in the summer of 2016 with the former car park buildings cleared, ready for Blackpool’s new conference centre.
Building site at Leopold Grove for Blackpool's new conference centre. It used to be a car park.

Work Begins at the New Winter Gardens Conference Centre

Work began on site at the start of 2018. First, piling work was carried out, to support the foundations of the new building. By the summer of 2018 the steel frame was growing and by the end of August, Blackpool’s new conference centre was starting to take shape.

Phases 1 and 2 of the structural steelwork are also in place by August 2018 and the Winter Gardens has switched over to new electricity and gas supplies.

Steelwork going up for Blackpool's New Conference Centre. End of August 2018
Steelwork going up for Blackpool’s New Conference Centre. End of August 2018
Steelwork going up for Blackpool's New Conference Centre. End of August 2018
Steelwork going up for Blackpool’s New Conference Centre. End of August 2018

The Building takes Shape

We took a walk around the outer perimeter of the Winter Gardens in the summer of 2020. In this video you can see just what’s happening on the Leopold Grove site –

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As you see in the film, by the summer of 2020 the shell of the building is taking shape. Windows are going in and you can see – sort of – what it’s going to look like.

Site progress in June 2020
Site progress in June 2020
Site progress in June 2020
Site progress in June 2020

Fast forward 12 months and look at the construction site from the same angle in June 2021. You can see how much progress has been made!

Site progress in June 2021
Site progress in June 2021

Installing the Signage

With the exterior of the building looking just like the original artist’s impression, it’s time to add the signage. Doesn’t that look good! It’s just like the original concept illustration (see below).

Winter Gardens Conference Centre signage, installed end of May 2021
Winter Gardens Conference Centre signage, installed end of May 2021

Original Plans for Blackpool’s New Winter Gardens Conference Centre

Blackpool Council commissioned plans from architects Bisset Adams. They previously worked on designing the refurbishment of Central Library in Blackpool. Also involved are Max Fordham Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, Morgan Tucker Civil and Structural Engineers and Right Solution conference consultants.

Take a look at these artists impressions, created to show what the new building will look like:

The brief was to create a high quality contemporary building to respect the historical and architectural significance of the rest of the complex. And offer innovative solutions to the challenges of twenty first century conferencing, such as security. Plus providing an improved public realm and environmentally friendly build.

The planning application shows the scale of the development. Including how the new centre will link up with the existing complex and the how the style of the new construction will complement the heritage of the current buildings.

One of the largest venues of its kind in the region, the development will include exhibition space on the first floor. Conferencing space for 2000 people will be located on the second floor. It’s a flexible space, designed to work on its own or seamlessly link with the Winter Gardens.

Refurbishment works will unveil the full exterior of the outside of the Empress Ballroom for the first time in years.

Around Blackpool’s New Conference Centre

Blackpool Council bought the land opposite Leopold Grove site in the summer of 2017 as part of the long term strategy for the Winter Gardens.

Buildings formerly at Leopold Gove, where the hotel will be built for Blackpool's new conference centre
Buildings formerly at Leopold Gove, where the hotel will be built for Blackpool’s new conference centre

Soon afterwards, in 2018, these derelict buildings are finally demolished. Initially to make space for the works compound but ultimately to become the site for the new Winter Gardens Hotel. The scheme includes closing part of Leopold Grove to traffic and pedestrianisation of it.

Demolition of buildings at Leopold Grove, opposite Blackpool's New Conference Centre.
Demolition of buildings at Leopold Grove, opposite Blackpool’s New Conference Centre. August 2018

Conference Centre Hotel

Blackpool Council planning committee has now approved plans for the Winter Gardens Hotel on Leopold Grove.

Artist's Impression of the new Winter Gardens Hotel
Artist’s Impression of the new Winter Gardens Hotel

Connected to the Winter Gardens with an enclosed footbridge, the hotel occupies the site of what’s currently Adelaide Street car park. So you might be wondering where all those cars are going to park? The 160 bedroom hotel includes a double level car park with 94 spaces for hotel guests.

There’s also good news for parking motorists displaced by the development. Discussions are underway for the site of the former Syndicate nightclub to become a new multi-storey car park.

Funding the Winter Gardens Conference Centre

First started in 1878, the Winter Gardens has grown into one of the most important entertainment centres in the country.

  • This building scheme was facilitated by £17.8m of funding from the Government’s Growth Deal, which is managed by the Lancashire Economic Partnership (LEP).
  • On 3 April 2017, news of a £2.9m Coastal Communities Fund grant was unveiled. Blackpool’s funding was part of £40m worth of funding in coastal towns across the country. It was the green light for work to begin on Blackpool’s new conference centre, with a view to the first conferences being in 2019.
  • An additional £7m+ of funding is provided by Blackpool Council and the Blackpool Entertainment Company Ltd (BECL).

The new conference centre will create more jobs and boost the local economy. Major conferences in Blackpool bring thousands of delegates in the town centre who spend money in our local shops, restaurants and hotels. It all helps businesses to thrive and allows them to employ new workers.

Conferencing became a core part of the offer after World War II. All the major political parties have held annual conferences here. It was back in 2007 when all parties moved their national conferences out of Blackpool – and now the campaign begins to bring them back!

Blackpool welcomes back the Conservative Party

The Conservative Party hosted its Spring Forum at the newly-built Winter Gardens Conference Centre in March 2022.

Conservative Spring Forum provides an excellent opportunity for members, organisations and the press to engage with the Party and hear about new ideas and policies.The Spring Forum sees a series of key speeches and a selection of fringe events held at the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

This one event is estimated to be worth £2.4m to the local economy.

While you’re here…

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1 thought on “Winter Gardens Conference Centre”

  1. Making Blackpool Better should be re-named Making Blackpool Brilliant. Congratulations to all concerned on the completion of this project.

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