Managers of The O2’s new exhibition venue have flagged Excel London, The Business Design Centre and Old Billingsgate as key rivals.
The 4,500sqm, freshly tarmacked Live Quarter is enclosed under The O2’s well-recognised canvas roof and is now open for exhibition and live events business. Although pillar-less, the space features two of The O2’s supporting masts. It is complemented by a 1,300sqm storage enclosure as well as a 5,000sqm loading area and has two visitor entrances accessible via Entertainment Avenue or the public river walk.
Owner of the North Greenwich venue, AEG, is managing bookings. Corporate events sales manager, Gemma Stone expected launch exhibitions, and business-to-business organisers looking to ride on the back of the O2 brand, to be the first to sign up to the Live Quarter area.
“Many people have asked us for combined conference and exhibition space in the past, but we’ve had to turn that business away,” Stone said.
A key benefit of The O2 complex for exhibition organisers, and against places like Excel, was the ability to utilise restaurants, cafes and bars, along with dedicated function venues like Indigo and matter, alongside an exhibition or live event, Stone said.
She dismissed concerns visitors would be put off by The O2’s less central London location, highlighting the Jubilee Line, bus and Thames Clipper ferry services as some of the various transport services available. Boris Johnson’s proposed cable car link to North Greenwich in time for the 2012 Olympics could further lift transport services, she said.
AEG has partnered with exhibition supplier, ATD Electrical to offer organisers stand design, mains and electrics services.
“We partnered with ATD to get an idea of how to use this space perfectly – we didn’t want to go into the exhibitions market blindly,” Stone said.
ATD Electrical managing director, Fergus Kiernan, admitted the biggest concern for the venue was heating. Electrics will also have to be passed overhead. In the medium-term, The O2 is considering smaller seminar facilities and Wi-Fi to boost the appeal of the space.
Live Quarter is being used for the ATP World Tour’s practice tennis courts and a retail village in November, and will house a 2,000-seat dinner for the Brit Awards in late February.
Stone said it was also looking into providing the exhibition space to third-party organisers during the Olympics. The O2, which will be rebranded to the North Greenwich Arena because of sponsorship issues during the games, will house gymnastics and basketball events.