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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 21:01 GMT
Dome deal: A new lease of life?
The long-vacant Millennium Dome is to be developed as a 20,000 seat sports and entertainment complex.
Meridian Delta Ltd were chosen by the government on Tuesday to develop housing, shops and offices on 150 acres of surrounding land.
Meridian Delta is backed by American oil magnate Phillip Anschutz, the billionaire behind the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.
The Dome has cost tax-payers £1.8m a month in maintenance costs since its closure.
The deal has already been criticised by the opposition Conservatives, who say even more public money will be needed to make it work.
Is Meridian Delta the right choice? Will it give a new lease of life to the controversy-dogged dome?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
Ben Broadbent, England
Boy am I proud to be British. All we can do is moan moan moan.
The Dome was a great investment for London's future and it's a shame to see it empty for so long.
It would be great as a concert venue - just imagine a Michael Jackson concert in full flow - fantastic.
I think that given time, like everything else, this new project about to be leashed on The Millenium Dome will be the best thing since sliced bread. The idea of having a sports complex is a fabulous one especially if it will include an ice rink for training - we could do with a few more throughout the country. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one!
The Treasury is about to steal £500 million and no one is batting an eyelid. The Dome was funded by sponsorship and Lottery money but the proceeds from the Dome giveaway will go to the Treasury. Give back this money to the Lottery Commission Mr Brown and let it be spent on other projects for the betterment of the whole of the UK.
The dome, despite the misconceptions of many other respondents is not a building. It is nothing other than an oversized and overpriced tent. It has no walls. It has a roof, but this (because the dome is dome-shaped) comes down to the ground at the edges. Maybe those imaginative souls who see the dome as an ideal venue for a sports arena can explain how exactly a construction of this shape can house the raised tiers of seats needed by spectators to view the action in the centre. Or is this unique structure to be even more unique in its future life, with the athletes performing around the edges with the seating arranged in a pyramid in the centre! The effects of the javelin, discus and hammer events should exhibit more than the normal level of interest!
John W, UK
I wonder how many of the people who are slating the Dome have ever been?
It's a shame that our handling of the Dome as a nation has, like so many major projects, been badly handled from the beginning. I think it shows lack of confidence and planning. So often, there is not enough attention paid to both detail and the long-term. Hopefully, the Dome will now become a successful venture, and I hope the tabloid press won't keep attacking it. It's an impressive design, but just like Wembley stadium, it has been allowed to deteriorate, while politicians and bean counters dither incompetently.
Let's face it: the positive point is that someone bought it. Now it won't punish the UK's taxpayers any more than necessary.
Peter Buckley, UK
Anything other the present situation for the Dome has to be better. Now we have a project that should provide a regeneration of the economy by providing new homes, new employment opportunities and increased revenue for the exchequer in re-couping millions of lost taxpayers money.
Why not turn the Dome into a place where the young people of London can go to play sports, rather than pay to watch sports? Imagine the possibilities of that huge space, a massive climbing wall, skate and BMX park, five-aside footy, even winter cricket. Give young people a safe place to get their adrenalin kicks, a place which they can afford to visit regularly.
Yup, a £600 million piece of land and building sold for £500 million over 20 years, great deal guys.
JW, London, UK
Can someone explain what benefit the Dome has brought to the UK? Whilst appreciating that London and Greenwich have benefited, what did it do for the likes of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester or Glasgow? Now this government will sanction yet more money to be poured into the so called capital. Get real, life does not begin and end at the orbital car park known as the M25.
The land including the costs of demolition is worth £350 million for development, which in 20 years would be equal to about £1.5 million. The estimated £500 million over 20 years on a discounted cashflow will have cost the government about £1 billion - ergo, a lousy deal by a government who wouldn't recognise a good deal if it was given to them in gold bullion.
Bradley Miles Davis, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
The Millennium Dome is, above all else, a monument to the vanity of the political classes - especially Blair and a few grandees from the last Conservative government. We, the public, and not the politicians, paid for the thing, and we paid plenty. It would be better for all concerned if the ghastly edifice was demolished and the 'real estate' which surrounds it and on which it stands, was sold off for redevelopment.
I have been away from the UK for two years and have returned to find a "Minister of Domes" and a phenomenally expensive building that I have paid for, cannot visit and that is being sold to an American so that he can profit from my taxes.
Thanks for managing the country whilst I've been away.
Good job I didn't ask you to look after the renting out of my house.
I feel that the Dome should be handed back to the people of the UK. Simply imagine what £900 million of UK residents' money could have been spent on. The Dome was supposed to celebrate the 21st Century; commiserations are the only thing that can be offered to the UK Government. Do the decent thing and let the people decide the fate of the Dome.
Philip Etherington, Australia
For seven years I lived in Greenwich overlooking the Dome site, then for seven wretched months I worked at the Dome. The regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula, previously contaminated, is a great achievement which should help revitalise south-east London and will ultimately benefit the UK generally. But I feel for the local workers who'll be hired for this new project. Dome workers went from optimism to anxiety to anger to unemployment. Ever get the feeling you've been had?
I believe someone mentioned earlier on about the site having been decontaminated. I believe if you check closely, the site was never actually decontaminated. I think if I remember correctly, what actually happened was a technique known as "capping". This basically meant that they never had to spend shed-loads of money decontaminating, they just had to cover it up with concrete thick enough to satisfy regulations for the commercial site. Housing sites have different regulations, and if you were to build say some houses on an estate on this site, then you would be subject to housing regulations saying the foundations have to be deeper etc, meaning at the end of the day that the capping would not be adequate, and decontamination would have to take place costing millions and millions more... you might as well start again. Couldn't we make it into the European bank and start using euros?
While it's nice to see the Dome being used at last, the developers must retain a sense of multicultural space. Too much emphasis on bars, with no alternative social spaces, will drive out the many sections of our society which do not drink, and repel those whose loath the excessive mindless drinking with which other entertainment venues have become associated.
I am astonished by the attitude of some of the respondents here, who seem to be criticising the media for being hostile to the Dome. We live in a country with a free press and they are perfectly within their rights to take whatever line they want on this (in my opinion) ludicrous waste of public money. The general public were also perfectly free to make up their own minds as to whether to spend an entire day going over to Greenwich to visit it, which they did not in sufficient numbers. Perhaps these people would like to live in a country where the press uncritically fawns over state monuments, I believe the former Soviet Union was rather keen on such things.
As one viewing all of this angst from another continent, it's hard to believe the destructive negativity that has enveloped the Dome from the outset. If ever there was a project doomed to failure by preconceived pessimism, thanks largely to the media, then this was it. In the Dome, Britain has a high profile, world class venue, epitomising all that is good about British engineering and creativity; potentially as recognisable a structure as, say, the Sydney Opera House and one which most countries would be proud to call their own. And yet the opinions reflected in the majority of these comments are short sighted and insular. It is sad, that as Britain wrestles with what it means to be British, the ingenuity, gritty determination and national pride that resulted in Britain leading the world in so many spheres, appears to have been replaced by a preference for petty politics, back-biting and cynical whingeing.
If London secures the national stadium bid (against popular opinion), why not use the Dome site? It must be cheaper than redeveloping Wembley.
What a waste of money that thing is. I'd like to see it launched into space along with those responsible.
It is a pity that the idiots who condoned the building of this eyesore didn't consider using it to host the World Athletics Championships. Instead they chose the embarrassing solution of withdrawing. Our government is a joke and quite unable to grasp any sort of sensible opportunity.
The Dome should be sold and the money given to charitable causes in the UK, especially in light of it being built using copious amounts of Lottery money, which supposedly should be going towards said charitable causes.
Just recently I read an article on the Dome in an English newspaper. It's a shame that it closed after the year 2000. It would be very good if the building could be used as an arena for
sports and other big events like circus shows and so on.
Kevin Dawes, Venezuela
The Millennium Dome is a great asset to London and the UK. It was during 2000 and continues to be, once it is reopened, the most talked about building and idea anywhere. If you didn't go to the Dome during 2000, then go as soon as it reopens because the building on it's own is an amazing experience. If you read the small print, you'll find it is still owned by the government, so at least it remains a public building in essence.
I have no doubt in years to come it will be given listed status by English Heritage and that we will all come to love our Dome. So, a lot of money was spent on it up to the end of 2000, but the arguments were more about it's sighting and the whole brave idea of at least trying to mark the passing of time.
That at least deserves praise.
This plan is to keep the Millennium Dome as a public events building which is the best outcome.
Three cheers for the Millennium Dome!!!!
Selling is possibly the only good thing to happen to the site of the most reprehensible fiasco to hit the public coffers. Assuming this sale will work of course. How do we know? What assurances can anyone accept after the lies and spin from people who cannot be trusted with the public purse? How many hospitals could £1billion run? After all it is still costing the taxpayer nearly £2 million a month to keep empty. Disgraceful. I cannot believe after all this, that Lord Falconer is still at the center of all this. What incompetence will he show next?
Why is it that everybody keeps bleating on about hospitals and the NHS? Does anybody actually know how much it does cost to run the NHS each year? I suspect that the Millennium Dome is a drop in the ocean compared to the NHS annual budget. Many mistakes have been made, but the entire country is run by trial and error, there are many things that our governments (past and present) have got right, which allow us to enjoy a free and comfortable lifestyle. The regeneration of the area can only be seen as a good thing.
Chris Gower, Liverpool, England
As a taxpayer I'm glad it's going private. However to me it seems like the government are getting rid of it without much thought. A sports and entertainment complex already exists just on the other side of the Thames at the London Arena. Surely having two competing complexes so close won't help either?
Good riddance to it. Of course, he'll make a lot of money - it's seriously cheap land, right next door to one of the biggest tube stations in London...how can he fail to rake in the cash? I just hope the government has seen sense, and not agreed to spend any more public money on it - helping the rich get richer off this really would be the icing on the cake of this whole Dome fiasco.
One of the criticisms of the Dome when it was an attraction was its location and how pathetic it was to travel to. It remains in the same place and there will be those same problems. Either knock it down or re-locate it into central London. Surely with the correct planning this can be done? Where is the thought process here?
I live very close to the Dome, and welcome more facilities in an area so close to central London, but still underdeveloped. The opportunities are good for the local economy, and a relief to the national budget.
Stuart Ford, UK
What a great idea, at last we are putting the Millennium Dome to good use!
I am against it costing the country more money though, if they cannot run it as a profitable business then knock it down.
Who cares as long as it stops costing the taxpayers money?
A sports complex. What a novel and unusual idea. Why didn't anyone think of that before?
Tim C, UK
Why not base the sports complex on Paris Bercy which has been built to cope with any sport or concert going, from cycle racing to motorcross and watersports?
This story reminds me of running down the health service in London so that prime sites can be converted into executive duplexes at a vast profit...
In Britain in general people seem to destroy a great many things with bad attitude. The potential for the Dome has always been huge, but it has always been run by people with no clue. Media reporting that made everyone hate the place before it was finished. So no-one wanted to go. People will travel half way around the world to see a great attraction like Disney. The Dome always had bad publicity, also bad planning, was poorly implemented, and a media ravaged disaster waiting to happen. Now everyone is wondering WHY.
Finally, some sanity! Such projects as the Millennium Dome should only be built and operated with private funds.
It may be a white elephant but it's no national treasure, so why should taxpayers in Leeds, Manchester or Sheffield pay for something which they will likely never use? Sell it to Meridian Delta!
This will no doubt please the owners of the London arena (an indoor sports/concert venue) about half a mile across the river. The arena is already facing competition for conferences from the newly opened Excel centre, and now it will face increased competition for sports events too. Including, the new Den, the revamped Valley, and the upgraded Upton park, London's docklands will be stadia-rich, but just how many do we need?
Due to its location, it will always only attract a tiny minority of the country's population, so knock it down, flog it to the highest property developer bidder and do what should have been done in the beginning and build a hospital or two!
Methinks that yet again many of those passing comment have never ever been anywhere near the Dome. Bad transport links? Not perfect, but north Greenwich is one of the most advanced transport interchanges in the country. As for parking, all public developments are supposed to discourage travel by car, not encourage it. This is possibly one of the reasons the Dome was less than well attended, but you have to start with ideals sometimes.
Better a sports complex than more 'exclusive' luxury flats. Or a dot.com disaster zone
I live very close to the Dome, and will welcome more facilities in an area so close to central London, but still underdeveloped. The opportunites are good for the local economy, and a relief to the national budget.
At last the Dome is actually being sold!! If it wasn't for the incompetence of various ministers it could have been put to good use long ago. What sort of business person would ever think of opening such a large attraction for only one year and expect to make any money out of it? The Dome was actually quite good, if they'd kept it open for five years instead of one, they might have actually made some money out of it. The media slating it at every chance they got, didn't help either, they're as bad as politicians!
Why should students repay government student loans if they are going to waste it on the Dome. This is the true shame of the the UK, a kick in the teeth for every hard worker in the country.
Why not simply rehouse the national stadium within the Dome for an all season stadium? This would both solve the Wembley situation and stop costing the taxpayers money!
More money wasted ! Perhaps that's the reason why the government announced the possibility of tax increases but used the NHS as an excuse when in reality the money will head for the Dome.
If its such a bright idea then why wasn't it built as a millennium celebration sports stadium in the first place?
This is a case of chucking new wine in an old skin. There is a justified stigma attached to the Dome which will be hard to shake off - and I can see this wheeze costing the taxpayer yet more millions before it all ends in tears. Again.
Like Sandra, I don't care so long as it stops costing me. However I do wish them well with it. Methinks they'll have to sort out the public transport links first though.
If the politicians want to know why people now hold them in such low esteem they have to look no further than the Dome. If ever there was a case of them considering themselves as public masters instead of public servants this is it. They even had the nerve to criticise me as one of the paying public for not going there! Who on earth gets on in business by telling their customers they are stupid ? Answer : politicians. When they gather together they seem to become incompetent. They could not even run the toll booth on the Severn Bridge-even that was too onerous for them, so now we will pay for the new bridge many times over just as we did for the old one. We talk about services, we talk about taxes, we never seem to talk about making governments more efficient. No, that takes creative thought instead of mindless chanting of the 'taxes good' or 'taxes bad' mantra of whatever party happens to be in power.
Anything, absolutely anything that stops the waste of money that is the Dome has got to be beneficial.
It doesn't matter what you build inside the ugly Dome, the simple reason it failed as a visitor attraction is its situation in the worst possible location in the most congested city in the world.
Of course the regeneration of Greenwich is of great importance to the whole country, that's we buy lottery tickets subsidizing our great capital as it sinks in it's own filth of corruption and bigotry. Tomorrow they'll tell us building the new national stadium can only be in Wembley, another impossible part of the country to get to. We've come to expect bad decisions to follow stupid decisions.
Especially as all the makers of these decisions live, work and play in our wonderful capital city, miles from the rest of the population.
Jon Ratcliffe, UK
I suspect that this will, like previous occasions turn out to be a false dawn. Another company, with great ideas. Let's face it, the Dome was a mistake with nearly £1 billion of public money being squandered. The government, quite understandably, wants rid of it at any cost... it wouldn't do to have it hanging around at the next election. I think it should be knocked down and all those responsible for its conception, management and ultimate downfall should be surcharged and repay the tax payer for their self conceited ignorance, that is the Dome.
Why not make it a museum and cultural centre for the study of massive government waste? It could house exhibitions on the thousands of white elephants erected around the world by self-aggrandising politicians at public expense. With only minor modifications (a couple of large flaps and a hose) it could be made even more exquisitely elephantine.
The Dome has life left in it. The sports complex is a good idea, and we need indoor sports facilities; everyone seems to agree to that.
That there is light in the end of the financial tunnel is also a good thing, but why has it taken so long to fix this?
This is fantastic news! It's what the Dome should have been from the outset. But even now we'd sooner slate the project than give it our support. No matter your opinion, this is our symbol of the new Millennium, let's make it a national treasure like Wembley and rid it of its current image. Best of luck Meridian.
Dave, North London, UK
The Dome was more or less doomed from the first day it opened: sited in London, the wealthiest city in the country with a hundred better attractions, just to preen politician's egos. Had it been sited anywhere else in the UK, it would have received kudos for redeveloping a troubled area and drawing wealth away from London and back into the country. Whilst Greenwich undoubtably needed this same kick, its problems were as nothing compared to the rundown heartlands of Wales, Scotland or the North of England. Instead, it will lose custom to the other, superior venues in London and, I fear, will return to government with its palm outstretched like so many other botched government initiatives.
I doubt we have even begun to see the beginning of the end of this sorry saga. The Dome has been "sold" once before before the buyers changed their minds. Can the new "owners" sell it on if they can't make it work ? Or is this all just a cover for its eventual and long overdue demolition ?
Perhaps I am missing the point, but, taxpayer's money didn't go near the project - it was Millennium Commission (Lottery) funded.
The construction cost of the Dome was something like £40mn - the project, and this sale, are much more than the building itself.
The Dome is one of the easiest places in London to get to, and London is one of the easiest cities in the country to get to. It is also about as close as such a big structure could possibly get to central London.
The Millennium Commission's projects stretch from Cornwall to remote Scottish Islands - they could not have been more widely spread. If anything, London has had less than it's (per capita) fair share.
The point of all Lottery money is to support projects that aren't guaranteed to stand up on commercial grounds alone. A great many of these have been big successes (the ones you don't hear about) and others haven't (the ones you do).
It's a fantastic building and a very worthwhile project, whatever criticisms you might have about the exhibition.
The exhibition 'failed' because the media wanted it to.
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