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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 11:46 GMT
Botanic garden project blossoms
The Great Glasshouse has been designed by Norman Foster and partners
Over 180,000 people have visited the centre
A multi-million pound millennium project with a spectacular dome at its heart has been hailed a phenomenal success after surpassing all visitor estimates.

The National Botanical Garden of Wales has blossomed into a major visitor attraction and beaten its 160,000 annual visitor estimate in six months.

The Prince of Wales - patron of the 43.3m centre near Carmarthen - was among the first on Monday morning to e-mail his official congratulations to staff at the garden.

Plants from the Mediterranean basin, South Africa, Australia, Chile and California shelter beneath the glass roof
The glasshouse contains streams, ravines and waterfalls
Bosses at the 180-acre site, which houses Europe's biggest single span glass dome, revealed 184,000 people had already visited the centre.

"When we saw we were doing so well in the summer we revised up our estimate to 175,000 - and we've beaten that too," said spokeswoman Oenone Still.

"The visitor figure at the moment is 184,000 - we have had an absolutely phenomenal response.

"Last month the Society of American Travel Writers held their annual meeting in Cardiff and they all came down for a visit.

"They left absolutely enthused by what they had seen and said they would be writing about the botanical garden for publications across America.

"Last month during the school half-term break we had families queueing outside waiting to get in.

Sharp contrast

"Many people realise this is the first national botanical garden established for many years and they want to see what it is like from the outset.

"According to market research we have carried out, 87% of visitors said they would be back - half of those inside a year."

It is in sharp contrast to a second flagship Lottery scheme in Wales, which closed on Sunday.

The 9m Centre for Visual Arts opened in Cardiff's revamped former library in September 1999 but closed just over a year later after failing to reach its visitor targets.

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06 Nov 00 | Wales
Troubled arts centre closes
24 May 00 | Wales
Botanic garden proves a hit
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