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May 2, 2008

Major expansion plans for east midlands venue

Peterborough’s East of England Showground is to undergo a £7 million transformation into a flexible, all-purpose venue for both indoor and outdoor events.

The project, due to commence in October, will see the construction of an exhibition centre and atrium, covering 5,583 square metres. This will create a total covered exhibition area of more than 14,000 square metres when linked to the existing facilities, which will be complemented by an outdoor space spanning more than 125 acres (in excess of 500,000 square metres).

Commenting on the project, Andrew Mercer, chief executive of the East of England Agricultural Society (EEAS), which owns the venue, said: “This is the largest development ever made on the Showground and will mean facilities can be used all year round. EEAS, as the organiser of seven major events and through the development of a highly skilled event management and ground force team, will be able to broaden its current portfolio, while creating a stronger platform from which to promote other activities in which it is involved – namely that of British agriculture and the Society’s highly acclaimed local food-sourcing policy, Food Direct from the Farm.”

The Showground’s expansion plans could be seen as strange in the light of statistics from CTS, which show a steady decline in average exhibition attendance in the UK since 1998. However, Mercer insisted the development is taking place in response to demand.

“We are regularly receiving enquiries for indoor exhibition space that we cannot satisfy with our current building stock,” he explained. “In addition, we have developed a highly successful corporate hospitality business in the winter months when the showground traditionally has not traded (due to the problems of parking on grass). The new facilities will allow us to do bigger events, and with greater frequency.

“The new development is designed to add value and offer better-quality facilities to the wide range of existing events that attract some 800,000 visitors each year. It will allow us to offer an even higher level of flexibility to new organisers and launch three new events ourselves.”

The new-look Showground is scheduled for completion in July 2007 and will include an all-weather car park for 2,000 cars, alongside existing parking for up to 20,000 vehicles. The venue is well connected by road and only 50 minutes by train from London Kings Cross station. It is also a level site ideally suited to the less mobile.


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