Ambitious growth plans for Glasgow’s SEC events venue

Peter Duthie, SEC Managing Director

CONCERTS, events and conferences are back – with a concert by young star Sam Fender in March recording the highest ever audience for a single show at OVO Hydro, the managing director of the Scottish Event Campus ( SEC) from Glasgow, Peter Duthie, confirmed .

Speaking at yesterday’s Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey, Mr Duthie said the 14,500-seater Hydro, which was one of only five venues in the world to sell more than one million tickets in 2019 – the last full year before Covid restrictions came into force – was back to pre-pandemic levels.

“The past two months have been incredibly busy and our future schedule is really strong with rescheduled concerts, performances, talks and exhibits,” he said.

The SEC has three buildings – the OVO Hydro, the SEC Armadillo and the original building, the SEC Center – with ambitious plans for expansion with a new £200m conference centre.

After making a statement on the world stage with the Hydro, which opened in 2013 and has since attracted the biggest names in entertainment, from Madonna, Beyoncé, Adele and One Direction to Scotland’s Calvin Harris and the boy local Kevin Bridges – the place’s biggest – selling an artist to date – it’s always been about “what’s next,” Duthie said.

“One thing we don’t lack is ambition and the answer was conferences,” he added. “Our conference center has been hugely successful – Glasgow punches above its weight in the conference industry and we have a fantastic, award-winning convention office that we work closely with.

“So the opportunity to create a new facility that would improve our capacity, would improve the scale of events that we are able to attract to allow us to run two large events at once – and also large events most important – was there if we could build the possibility of doing it. »

The new conference centre, he noted, “will create something more modern, better suited to the needs of the evolving market over the next 10 to 15 years, and will help us maintain our place and grow our place in which it is more and more an international competition”.

Mr Duthie said: “Every major city in the world is now looking to improve their conference offering because they understand the value it brings.”

While the process of securing funding for the new facility is still ongoing with ongoing talks with the UK and Scottish governments, “the argument is quite simple”, he added. “The project will add something like £66m a year GVA to Scotland. Every pound of GVA brings 38 cents in tax revenue to the government – with the current tax framework splitting around 50-50 between the UK government and the Scottish government.

“So it will bring in somewhere in the region of £25million a year in tax revenue once it opens. It will pay for itself in 10 years. »

Managing Director since 2014, Mr. Duthie joined the team when the venue, then called the SECC, was built in 1984. A true one-stop-shop for conferences, exhibitions and live entertainment, the SEC has undoubtedly changed the Clyde landscape. .

At the time, the Birmingham NEC had just opened and was hosting indoor sporting events. So the plan was to try and replicate that model when the SECC opened. “There were no arenas in the world, we were holding concerts in a temporary facility in an exhibition hall like they did at the NEC and Earls Court in London,” Mr Duthie said.

A bespoke concert hall has been discussed over the years, he added. “There was pressure from artists looking for increased capacity, from promoters. We had availability issues as the center became increasingly busy with exhibits and we had to build the seated environment and then dismantle it, which also had cost implications.

Planning, Duthie noted, has become a real challenge. “The Last Pilot [for the Hydro] It was a week where we had to turn down bookings for Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga and Michael Bublé because we couldn’t fit them into their tour schedule.

“Glasgow has so much to offer, Scotland has so much to offer conference delegates and the SEC is located on the seafront, it’s a 20 minute walk to the city centre,” he noted. , recalling that he would have “never considered” having a world-class facility like the Hydro in Glasgow.

“The regeneration of Finnieston that occurred was not a designed outcome of the project,” he pointed out. “At the end of the day, the business plan was based on 700,000 visitors to the Hydro a year, but we were doing over a million before the pandemic. This traffic drives people into town, it fills hotels and restaurants, and people spend money in shops and taxis.

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