A £50 million transformation of the East of England Arena and Events Centre could see the construction of a leisure village complete with hotel, retail, food and drink outlets turning the venue into a leading destination for visitors across the UK.
Health and welfare will be the focus for the village with an emphasis on outdoor activities, links into Nene Park, and a range of popular competitive socialisation activities alongside the traditional gym and swimming pool.
The vast range of facilities will mean the need to hire up to 500 people in full-time, part-time and flexible roles turning the Arena into a major employer for the city.
Delays on Bourges Boulevard in Peterborough city centre due to blaze
Anglian Water says they still have no hosepipe ban plans - despite driest summer for more than 30 years
Police name 28-year-old truck driver killed in A47 crash near Peterborough
Police launch CCTV appeal after assault in Lincoln Road in Peterborough
UK drought 2022: Anglian Water ‘won’t hesitate’ to introduce hosepipe ban if homes ‘reckless’ with water
It is the vision outlined by senior managers of the Peterborough-based Arena operator, Asset Earning Power Group (AEPG) who have just told organisers of some of the city’s biggest outdoor festival and shows, like Truckfest, Plantworx and the National Motorhome Show that they will have to find new venues or change if they are to stay at the Arena after July 1 next year.
But they are confident the proposed changes will help the Arena attract more people, who will spend more, and will put Peterborough on the map as a leading UK destination where visitors can stay overnight and enjoy a range of experiences.
Pamela Newbould, head of events at East of England Arena, said: “Where we have six or seven big events that take up our summer, we will have the opportunity to fill that space with probably twice the number of events.
"This is because of the ability to turn around indoor in the way that you can’t an outdoor event.
"Although there will be slightly different styles of events, I have every confidence of pulling in the same numbers of visitors and I would imagine the same spend, as we will be able to pull in a lot of trade events, as there are a lot of businesses that we will be able to tap into across the Midlands.”
She added: “Trends in the events industry show that outdoor events are struggling and have struggled before the pandemic, while the move towards indoor events is positive.”
Lee Sharp, managing director of East of England Showground Services, said: “This is a unique project in the UK and is about attracting people from the local area to what will be a brand new and great facility.
"It will really put the centre on the map of the UK’s destinations where people can come for events, can stay over night and experience different facilities.
“We are very confident with the concept and the numbers that it will attract and it will definitely put Peterborough on the map.”
What features will be in the leisure resort?
Although the plans are expected to undergo some changes over the coming months, Mr Sharp said: “It is about how we complement the existing facilities at the Arena
He said: “We are looking at health and wellness, not just a traditional health club and pool but using outdoor space as well.
“There will be a perimeter around the site that will lead directly to Nene Park so encouraging people to walk through green spaces and to enjoy the outdoor spaces and the ecology that will also be retained in the development.”
There will also be a range of soft competitive activites such as bowling, mini-golf to axe- throwing and the new table tennis game Pong.
Mr Sharp said: “There will be an accommodation solution, potentially a hotel, so people will be able to stay on site.
"It’s really important when people are coming here from outside the area that there is an accommodation solution on site. This makes sense in terms of convenience and people being able to experience the resort itself.
"We will also have food and beverage, a multitude of retail outlets as well as new conference and co-working space.
“So there will really be a big to a variety of demographic groups.”
How did we get here?
The East of England Arena and Events Centre, which was called and is still popularly referred to as Peterborough Showground, has been owned and operated by the East of England Agricultural Society.
Alistair Beattie, interim chief executive of the East of England Agricultural Society, has previously said: “The end of the three-day agricultural show in 2012 meant that the showground was no longer essential to the future of the Society.
“Our alliance with AEPG allows the development of the leisure facilities and wider site, leaving the Society to focus on its charitable aims of promoting agriculture, education, and rural life.”
What happens next?
The timescale for the development depends largely on securing planning permission from Peterborough City Council.
Ms Newbould said: “There are conversations going on at the moment and we are looking to get a pre-planning agreement in place with the city council
“Until that takes place we don't have further timelines - nothing is set in stone at all.”
An operator for the proposed leisure village still has to be chosen.
Mr Sharp added: “The really important thing for us was to give our organisers more than a year’s notice.
“That was a priority for them to be able to look at alternative locations or evolve how they will do events moving forward in a slightly different space with us.
“The key objective at this stage was to inform, collaborate and support our existing clients and put a line in the sand to start this.”