SEC Glasgow plans to draw ‘blockbuster events’


Scottish Event Campus wants to double capacity Image: Holmes Miller Architects

An £80 million plan to double capacity at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, Scotland (UK) could replicate the ‘Finnieston effect’ in Glasgow’s riverside area, according to its leader.

‘’ stated that the proposal, which has been agreed in principle by the City Council, could see a new conference center built on the East side of the campus.

The Scottish Event Campus (SEC) is a multiactivity center in Glasgow, Scotland (UK) that hosts exhibitions, conferences and live entertainment. It’s located on the banks of the River Clyde and is one of the most visited venues in Scotland. The SEC has 22,344 square meters of event space, including the SEC Centre, the SEC Armadillo and the OVO Hydro.

The 10,000-capacity SEC Centre, or the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, is Scotland’s largest exhibition center, located in Glasgow, Scotland. It has over 239,000 square feet of exhibition space across five halls, and is part of the Scottish Event Campus. The SEC Centre also connects to the OVO Hydro and Armadillo, making it a good venue for large events, concerts, banquets, and concurrent exhibitions.

The SEC Armadillo, also known as the Clyde Auditorium, is a concert venue and auditorium in Glasgow, Scotland (UK). It’s one of three venues on the Scottish Event Campus, which also includes the SEC Centre and the OVO Hydro. The SEC Armadillo has a unique style and can accommodate up to 3,000 people.

The OVO Hydro is a multipurpose indoor arena in Glasgow, Scotland (UK) that opened in 2013. It’s the largest entertainment venue in Scotland, with a capacity to hold 14,300 people. The venue is designed to accommodate a wide range of events, including concerts, conferences and exhibitions. It’s also consistently ranked by Pollstar as one of the world’s busiest venues.

The ‘Finnieston effect’ is the process by which a neighborhood (Finnieston is a neighborhood in Glasgow, Scotland) that was once ‘cool’ becomes ‘saturated’ and eventually ‘gentrified stasis’ (poor neighborhood becomes wealthy). The ‘Glasgow Herald’ has noted the ‘Shoreditch effect’ as an example of this phenomenon, which refers to how Finnieston became the hippest neighborhood in Britain.

The ‘Shoreditch effect’ is a term that describes how gentrification has changed the demographics of Shoreditch, an iconic London (UK) area.

Peter Duthie, Chief Executive of the SEC, said the centre was currently turning away conference bookings and an expansion would allow it to attract “blockbuster” events.

‘’ further stated that the project is reliant on public funds but Duthie said the expanded facility would generate significant Gross Value Added (GVA) “which in turn drives tax revenues”.

He added, “As a public infrastructure project it will pay for itself quite quickly.”

He credits the opening of the Hydro on September 30th, 2013 for helping regenerate the Finnieston area and said the plans could replicate this in other areas around the Clyde.

It is hoped the expansion will lead to private investors coming on board including a hotel operator, adding to the 1,500 rooms in the SEC area.

Put in Duthie, “With the success of the Hydro the question was what do we do next and the answer came from our conference sales team who said they were turning some business away that we could get if we had more space and better facilities. Effectively we are looking at building a new conference center with an £80 million expansion at the East end of the campus. We are competing in a global market. Upgrading our facilities would allow us to stage two conferences of scale at the same time and attract some of these bigger blockbuster events.”

He further pointed out, “The challenge for us is that the funding needs to come from the Government. The expanded facility will generate significant GVA which, in turn, drives tax revenues so as a public infrastructure project it will pay for itself quite quickly.”

Duthie, who is also a Director of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, further stated, “But we recognized the challenge on budgets. So, we are still talking to the Government to see if we can find a way to get it across the line because it just makes so much sense to do it.”

Duthie said the team was looking at various models and hopes the ambition to be Net Zero by 2030 will drive more private investment “including potentially another hotel on the site”.

He further added, “The events industry is one in which Scotland and the United Kingdom are world leaders. We’ve got a reputation to build on with the success of the Conference of the Parties (COP) (26 in Glasgow) and other events of that scale. It’s a real economic driver and the Government still needs to invest in things which are of economic benefit. We work collaboratively with the universities and the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and Glasgow is a very collaborative place to do business. A lot of people will tell me that the SEC is their favorite place to do business. It is small enough that the big events matter when they come into the City so they have a noticeable impact and for the conference organizers that matters.”

The COP26, or the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, was held in Glasgow, Scotland (UK) from October 31st to November 12th, 2021. The conference’s main goal was to secure global net zero emissions by mid-century and keep warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius of its target.

He said one of the unintended consequences of the Hydro opening was the regeneration of Finnieston into a “destination in its own right. The reason it happened was that effectively the walking route from the West end to the Hydro was through Finnieston. So, as soon as you start doing that people stop off for drinks and something to eat. The bars and the restaurants suddenly found themselves being very busy. It wasn’t a hip area but is now winning awards all over the world. It’s busy now when there’s nothing on at the Hydro. That’s what we are looking to achieve with the conference side. There are areas across the water in the South side for development. I think just increasing the activity and footfall will help with more hotel opportunities and more restaurants.”

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