Success of Live at the Marquee gigs lends hope to conference centre plan

Elton John and Roger Waters are among the headline acts to have played Live at the Marquee

People thought he was mad when he announced plans in 2004 to stage a series of summer concerts, by some of the world’s biggest stars, in a large tent in Cork’s docklands.

But leading music promoter Peter Aiken, of Aiken Promotions, knew there was demand in the south for top quality music acts: The only problem was Cork didn’t have a big enough venue.

So Aiken arranged his own temporary venue, importing a huge marquee from Europe for the first Live at the Marquee series in summer ’04.

It was an instant success and has gone from strength to strength — each summer concert series worth an estimated €15m to €20m to the local economy.

Over the years, almost 750,000 people have attended almost 200 Live at the Marquee concerts by stars such as Bob Dylan, Elton John, Diana Ross, Roger Waters, and Neil Young.

Next year, Aiken, who also brought Bruce Springsteen to Pairc Uí Chaoimh this year, will celebrate 10 years of Live of the Marquee with a live album featuring some of the best performances from the last decade.

Aiken says the success of Live at the Marquee is proof that the city can sustain a permanent indoor events and concert venue.

City manager Tim Lucey kick-started the process in April after a report found there is economic justification for public investment in such a facility.

The council is understood to be willing to invest up to €6m.

October’s budget announced €10m of State investment to secure the delivery of the project, drawn from the sale of the National Lottery licence, bringing the project closer.

Three multi-million proposals have planning permission.

Property developer Owen O’Callaghan was given the green light by An Bord Pleanála last July for a proposed €50m stand-alone multi-purpose events and conference centre on Albert Quay.

BAM, with site owners Heineken Ireland, has planning permission for its €150m Brewery Quarter regeneration, which has as its focal point a 6,000-capacity events centre on the former Beamish and Crawford site on South Main St.

Planning permission granted to Howard Holdings in 2009 for a €33m conference centre on a docklands site off Centre Park Rd, is still valid.

The council has appointed consultants PwC to assess the options and advise it on which project should get public funds.

The council is seeking clarification from Government on accessing the €10m funding.

It is also finalising the terms of reference in the hope that PwC can begin its assessment before Christmas. The process could take at least eight weeks.

It is expected the consultants will compare each of the venues under the following headings:

- Capacity and flexibility of the venue for different uses;
- Impact of site location on traffic and pedestrian flow in the city;
- Impact on the local economy (within 500m) and wider city impact in zones of increasing 500 metres;
- Possible impact in relation to regeneration;
- Time scale of development, and job creation potential;
- How the facility will impact on existing entertainment and cultural institutions.


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