Communities and Business Minister Rosie Winterton has announced Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens complex are to be refurbished as part of a £38.9m deal.
The deal aims to secure the long term future of the area by rejuvenating tourism and ensuring that Blackpool maintains a leading resort in UK.
The funding will enable Blackpool Council to purchase the Tower and the Winter Gardens from the current operator Leisure Parcs. It will put the attractions in public ownership for the very first time and pave the way for a major regeneration programme that will:
- Bring the expertise of the leisure operator Merlin Entertainments Group to the area. Merlin already operates internationally branded attractions including the London Eye, London Dungeon and Legoland
- Fund a £10m programme of repairs for the Tower. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in time for the beginning of the 2011 tourism season
- Attract an estimated 800,000 more visitors a year to the Tower, almost doubling the current visitor numbers, from 458,000 visits in 2008/09, bringing an additional visitor spend of £36m a year
- Create an estimated 1,000 jobs
- Aim at delivering a wide ranging economic impact, contributing up to £223m to the region's gross value added as well as providing a return of £7 for every £1 of public sector investment
The Winter Gardens will undergo a first phase refurbishment and upgrading programme to create a new multi-purpose conferencing venue for events and functions. The first phase involves an upgrade of the pavilion and arena as well as the redevelopment of 77-81 Church Street to create a new creative industries workspace unit.
The £38.9m investment has come from the Northwest European Regional Development Fund, which contributed £14m, North West Development Agency, £7.9m, Blackpool Council, £10m, and the Homes & Communities Agency, £7m.
Regional Minister Phil Woolas, who visited Blackpool Tower today, said: "This is fantastic news for Blackpool and the North West. Blackpool Tower and Winter Gardens are favourite tourist venue attractions in the country and this investment will ensure their future as part of the transformation of Blackpool into a world class destination."
Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, added: "Both Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens are internationally recognised landmarks and are therefore key assets for both the resort and the North West. Through bringing these two prime attractions into public ownership, this investment will drive a major redevelopment and restoration programme on a scale that would otherwise not have been possible, generating significant economic benefits."
Sir Howard Bernstein, chair of ReBlackpool, said: "This is a bold but necessary initiative which provides the best possible platform for strengthening the destination role of the town. I am confident that this will result in a significant increase in jobs and visitor numbers and will weld together all the other valuable projects and programmes which are designed to make Blackpool an attractive place to live, visit and invest."
In addition, Blackpool Council has signed up global visitor attractions operator Merlin Entertainments to also manage the operations and redevelopment of the Louis Tussauds Waxworks when it formally takes over the business later this year.
Peter Callow, leader of Blackpool Council, said: "This is a fantastic deal for Blackpool securing long-term investment in the resort and is the culmination of months of negotiations.
"The Council is ambitious for Blackpool and Merlin is absolutely the right choice. Merlin is a global company, and the biggest entertainment name in the UK and Europe, and they will be bringing some of the most iconic attractions in the world to Blackpool."
Merlin's existing UK portfolio also includes Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle, and Madame Tussauds. The company also operates the world's largest aquarium brand, Sea Life, including the attraction on Blackpool promenade.