The proposed design of the new Marine Lake Events Centre in Southport

Operators are being sought to run the new £75million Marine Lake Events Centre which is due to be built in Southport. 

Sefton Council is looking to create the new centre on the site of the former Southport Theatre & Convention Centre, which closed in March last year. 

Four potential operators are already keen to take over the running of the new facility. 

The Marine Lake Events Centre was the central ambition of the recent Southport Town Deal bid to the Government, which secured £37.5million from Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in the Budget in March, adding to £1million already allocated to Southport last year. 

The new operator would be involved in the design process for the new events centre and would be secured on a long term deal (25+ years), giving the confidence to funders and providing income to the council. 

The idea of appointing a commercial operator was recommended by consultants IPW, which comprises HOK Architects, AECOM and Gardiner & Theobold.

In his report to Sefton Council’s Cabinet today, Sefton Executive Director Place Stephen Watson wrote: “Soft market-testing was undertaken as part of the outline business case, which indicated that there were four operators who may be interested in the Marine Lake Events Centre.

“IPW therefore recommended that a commercial operator be appointed through a competitive process that provides maximum risk transfer from, and certainty to, the Council.

“There are a series of major benefits to overall project delivery of procuring an operator early in the development process. Hence why, this is now the best practice approach when developing venues of this type.

“The benefits are as follows: 

  • The Council would get an indication of the future financial performance of the facilities, and the scale of the guaranteed and variable incomes that it could receive, which will directly support the Council’s funding strategy 
  • Provide confidence to funders about the project sustainability, through securing an operator on a long-term deal (25 years +), with guaranteed income streams 
  • The operator can input into the design development process. This will enable them to help refine the facilities that are best for the market and their business model. Furthermore, it may also identify potential areas of saving, such as the removal of the Fly Tower and associated facilities from the base scheme if not required to deliver the operators events programme 
  • Understanding of any potential for capital investment in FF&E/ additional FF&E requirements  
  • Reduces risk in the future operation of the scheme with this potential financial burden transferred away from the council early in the process. 

“It is important to undergo a rigorous detailed exercise to determine the optimal party to operate the Marine Lake Events Centre, which supports the selection of a Competitive Dialogue procedure. This approach will enable us to explore a range of possible solutions with the operators, which is particularly important when we consider that there are a number of elements of the scheme that could be in or out of any potential deal (eg Food & Beverage, Water & Light Show, under croft etc).

“Therefore it is recommended to use the Competitive Dialogue procedure to procure an operator for the Marine Lake Events Centre site.

“The results of this procurement will be brought back to Cabinet as part of the full business case in early 2022. This business case will confirm the anticipated value of the project along with all funding sources.” 

The Southport Town Deal board has already allocated £30million for the new Marine Lake Events Centre and £3.3million for a new light show in Marine Lake. 

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is due to provide a further £20million. 

Sefton Council is due to submit a pre-development funding bid of up to £2.5million to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, along with a capital funding bid submission to Arts Council England of up to £5million.  

The new Events Centre formed part of the Southport Town Deal consultation.

This overall consultation, which was carried out by Stand Up For Southport, Turleys and DS Emotion, resulted in over 7,000 responses with regards to the overall Town Deal. Separate consultation also took place with under 16s in relation to The Events Centre and future uses, with more than 1,000 respondents.

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