Coffee with… Nick Waight, Managing Director, AECC
Eric Farquharson caught up with the man in charge of the transition to the new AECC Bucksburn venue to find out what its future holds…
Since Aberdeen City Council announced that a new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) would be built on the former site of the Rowett Institute in Bucksburn there has been much anticipation and speculation about the state-of-the-art venue. The new site, near to Aberdeen International Airport, will boast an on-site Energy Centre, a 12,500-capacity arena and three on-site hotels.
Who better, then, to meet for a chat over coffee than Nick Waight from venue operator SMG. When Nick is not in the company of his two teenage daughters, enjoying football or skiing, he is managing director of the AECC and the man who will aid the transition from the old site in Bridge of Don to the impressive new venue.
Firstly, I wanted to know the credentials of SMG, and what qualifies them to ensure the city can attract large and popular events and secure a bigger share of the conference, exhibition and concert market.
Over a steaming skinny latte, Nick responded: “SMG is the largest venue operator in the world, which leverages the experience of managing and operating venues to provide consulting advice to owners to deliver world-class venues. They operate over 240 arenas, stadiums and convention centres, including McCormick Place in Chicago, Moscone Centre in San Francisco and NRG Centre in Houston. SMG already welcomes over three million visitors each year in the UK to 10 venues, including The Manchester Arena, First Direct Arena in Leeds, the Bridgewater Hall, Hull Venue and the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle.”
“But the AECC hasn’t exactly been a huge financial success to date, so how will future plans ensure more rewarding returns?” I queried.
Nick responded: “The venue will be managed and operated by SMG, who have a strong track record in the industry and will, I’m sure – given the quality of the new facilities – make a success of the new venue. On a personal level, I believe we now have an opportunity to attract a range of new events to the city which wouldn’t previously have come and I think Aberdeen City Council should get a huge amount of credit for the significant investment that they have made in the new facilities, which will help drive a diversified economy and economic regeneration.”
“So, what does the new site consist of?”
“The new site consists of 48,000 square metres of event and exhibition space, and will see the creation of a new 12,500-capacity arena, conference halls, a subterranean multi-purpose space, Energy Centre, Hilton and Aloft hotels, car parking and public space.
“This will allow us to compete nationally and internationally for new events, as well as broaden the appeal of the North East to a global audience.”
I’m intrigued as to how Nick will achieve a smooth transition from the Bridge of Don site to the new Bucksburn venue…
He responded: “We are currently working on events in both venues, to ensure that the AECC runs smoothly right up until the point of the first event in the new venue. This should allow for a smooth transition between the two venues. The move can be thought of similar to that of a large house move, with lots of elements to consider. Careful organisation and forward planning will ensure no impact is felt by our customers.”
I am sure many people are keen to know what the first event in the new location will be…?
“Discussions are ongoing at the moment as to what will be our first event at the new venue. However, we have several conferences and exhibitions, as well as international artists, considering the venue at present. Whoever it is, we are extremely excited about the move and look forward to welcoming a host of new and existing customers to the new venue.”
The development is taking shape at the new site, where the impressive stance and enormity of the new venue is being brought to life. I thanked Nick for his time and, as I wished him every success with this venture, I have to admit that, although I can’t wait to see the project finalised, I was not envious of his task!