Magazine article Marketing

Welcome to the Leisure Dome

Magazine article Marketing

Welcome to the Leisure Dome

Article excerpt

Marketing reporter Lisa Campbell was invited into the Dome to hear and see for herself why, despite negative publicity, the project's marketing chiefs believe it will be a Millennium marvel

You can't help entering the Millennium Dome as a cynic. We've all seen the 'Dome Alone' headlines about lack of sponsorship, heard the critics bemoaning the [pounds]758m being pumped into the project, and wondered about the wisdom of building what looks like a silver spaceship on the Meridian line in Greenwich.

So on a cold, drizzling November afternoon I took up the "Why don't you come and see it yourself?" offer from the New Millennium Experience Company's marketing men, commercial director Kevin Johnson and marketing and communications director Sholto Douglas-Home.

The trip was being offered to a group of the marketing press, largely because like most other journalists, many of us had so far been sceptical about the Dome's chances of success, both in appealing to sponsors and to the public, 12 million of whom it plans to attract to the Millennium Exhibition between December 31 1999 and December 31 2000.

Our tour guide for the Dome was Laing construction director Bernard Ainsworth. The surprisingly relaxed 50-year-old Yorkshireman is responsible for erecting the Dome, and is one building site chief who knows the whole world will read about it if he fails to make his completion date.

Decked out in fetching hard-hats, wellies and fluorescent waistcoats, we approached the Dome which loomed dazzlingly white against its miserable grey sky backdrop.

Passing through to the interior, it was the sheer scale of the place that left us open-mouthed.

"Turn the roof upside down and it would take 3.8 billion pints of bitter to fill it," says Ainsworth, in one of a long list of 'Dome Facts' he trots out as part of the tour. "You can fit two Wembley Stadiums in here," he adds.

The vast building site that stretches out beneath the Dome's web-like roof gives some indication of the size of the undertaking.

In the middle were ant-sized construction workers driving Lego-like trucks. Several of them were busy digging a huge hole at the centre of the Dome which will form the core of the entertainment shows due to take place twice a day in an area the size of Trafalgar square. It will feature performers and acrobats suspended from the Dome's cobweb of steel cables spanning the roof. Standing on an observation gantry 150ft high, it was possible to look across the entire Dome, where a 600-strong labour force is working around the clock on building what its organisers hope will be the world's most successful celebration of the new millennium.

The scene from the gantry affords a view of the Dome's scale and scope, which once it has opened paying visitors will never see. You can survey the whole floor, a vast open space under the futuristic Dome roof. From next year the space will be developed for the exhibition zones which will fill the Dome. These include zones called The Mind, The Body, Spirit, Work, Learning, Transaction, Rest, Play, and National Identity.

There is a half-built promenade surrounding the central floor area which will accommodate up to 12,000 people per show, and be linked by walk-ways to six core centres to be used for services such as retailing and corporate hospitality. Three storeys high, with each floor the size of a small supermarkets, the buildings are glass-fronted, giving the occupants a bird's-eye view of activity below. On New Year's Eve 1999, these places will be reserved for VVIP's who will be wined, dined and entertained at one of the world's biggest parties to be televised around the globe. …

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