Hull's Bonus point
The 2017 UK City of Culture’s events legacy has taken another giant leap forward with the opening of the Bonus Arena.
Hull’s new Bonus Arena officially opened its doors at the end of August with a live performance by music legend Van Morrison. The £36m, 3,500-capacity venue is part of Hull City Council’s £250m UK City of Culture legacy plan to invest in culture and the arts and provides the city with valuable conference and exhibition space.
It is a major piece in the puzzle for the city but is not an isolated attempt to woo business events. Garry Taylor, city manager of major projects and infrastructure at Hull City Council, says it is all part of a “perception change” for the city.
“Back in 2013 I began working on a plan to re-shape the city centre as visitor destination,” says Taylor. “A lot of people have perceptions of Hull, and usually when they get here they’re blown away. But it did need regeneration: we’ve repaved the city, installed some fantastic artwork, and we’ve upgraded the art gallery. On top of this we’ve brought in new hotels and opened 160 new restaurants.”
There has been positive action, but it’s the events scene that clearly matters the most. “We have mid-size conference and event venues, but the missing link for a long time was a large-scale venue,” Taylor adds. “It was factored in as part of the city plan and we’re thrilled today we can say we have achieved that with the Bonus Arena.”
So what does it mean to the city? “It’s massive for Hull because it puts us on a different level. I also manage the conferencing team, and traditionally we’ve struggled to place medium and large conferences. While clients showed interest in coming to Hull, we just couldn’t package it up. That’s finally changed, and we’ve confirmed several large conferences over the next couple of years, which come from across Europe and around the UK.
“It’s a perceptive change with regards to footfall: everything we do is trying to increase density in the city centre to drive the local economy, and conferencing is a great way to help facilitate that.”
The hotel scene has changed dramatically over last couple of years in the city, with the long-awaited Hilton adding a large bedroom inventory to the brochure. Is there more to come?
Taylor says: “There are plenty of boutique hotels that have recently opened, so we can put on a decent size event. There is an increase in demand and we are working to open up even more bed space. There is a site next to the Bonus Arena which, again, we hope to utilise for more capacity.”