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Sky City's centre will handle most events

By Graeme Kennedy

Friday 14th February 2003

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Sky City Entertainment Group's $60 million downtown Auckland convention centre will be able to handle 90% of international market requirements and almost all domestic New Zealand needs, group managing director Evan Davies says.

The centre will open around the end of this year and a $75 million 320-room five-star hotel above it will be completed in late 2004.

"We can provide multi-day conferences for up to 1500 people, which is the majority of demand worldwide," Mr Davies said.

"This will bring in significant numbers of delegates, who are the biggest spenders of all visitors, which will be a boost for the Auckland economy.

"We believe Auckland at some time in the future will need a centre to compete with others such as the 5000-plus facility in Adelaide.

"It will need to be publicly funded and correctly located but Sky right now is providing an immediate solution rather than one in 10 years."

Sky went ahead alone with the convention centre after a proposal in which the Auckland City Council would become a $17 million, 25% partner was turned down last year ­ a decision Mr Davies said was disappointing.

The ACC sought proposals from the private sector for a partnership in a purpose-built convention centre and began discussions with several companies and groups including Sky.

"We proposed a joint venture but by mid-last year the council decided not to go ahead," Mr Davies said.

"We had already started development but put it on hold during the discussions so we were delayed and disappointed as we thought ours was a worthwhile proposal.

"We decided to go ahead but with an enlarged design to increase accommodation from 1200 to 1500 and add a double full-length 1360sq m level for exhibition space.

"Our facility will provide for the majority of demand now while the council was talking for a long time about the ultimate solution and meanwhile was prepared to miss out on the current market."

Mr Davies said Sky research indicated that the convention market with the greatest economic benefit was in the 500-1500-delegate range.

While Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane had "commandeered" the 2000-plus market, significant demand remained in the lower range.

"That's the market Auckland is missing out on and we aim to fill that niche," Mr Davies said.

The convention centre and hotel are being built opposite Sky City between Federal and Albert sts.

"The new hotel is pitched at a slightly higher level than our existing hotel in Sky City, which is very successful with high occupancy rates," Mr Davies said

"We are expanding our spread of facilities with the new hotel to provide a broader range of customer needs.

"And with bigger conferences there will be more demand for hotel rooms."

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