PICTURE CAPTION: From left to right – Mark Lee (Chairman of the Arena Quarter Advisory Board), Sarah Windrum (Chair of CWLEP) and Paul Michael (Commercial Director, Ricoh Arena).

The first steps have been taken in creating a new multi-million-pound convention centre at Ricoh Arena with the start of a major refurbishment project.

Work has begun to transform the existing 1,750 square metre conference and exhibition space in the lower halls at the Coventry venue – which will be named Coventry Building Society Arena from this summer – and marks the first stage of construction in the creation of the state-of-the-art Commonwealth Convention Centre.

The three-month project will see the space undergo a significant aesthetic overhaul and the installation of a state-of-the-art digital and audio-visual technology system to provide a flexible, modern and market leading facility.

The modernisation of the current halls will also seamlessly connect the space to the rest of the venue to give exhibitors and organisers access to up to 7,750 square metres of exhibition and conference space – further strengthening the Arena’s position as a market leader in the exhibition industry.

The newly refurbished halls are the first part of further construction later in the year, with work expected to commence in September.

This will include the pavilion entrance on the south side of the venue, the new Commonwealth Convention Centre lobby and dedicated art and gallery space to showcase local projects and act as a community gathering point.

Transformation of the existing halls at the Arena is funded through the £3.8 million granted to the venue by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), via the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) as part of the Government’s Getting Building Fund.

An additional £1.4 million has also been made available to Ricoh Arena via CWLEP from the Local Growth Fund and Growing Places Fund.

The Commonwealth Convention Centre is expected to open its doors by Q1 2022.

Stephen Vaughan, Wasps Group Chief Executive, said: “This is a major step in the redevelopment of the Arena and signals the beginning of works to create the state-of-the-art Commonwealth Convention Centre.

“This project will repurpose the existing site and bring innovative digital technology to the lower halls that is also being installed across other areas of the venue.

“There will be a dramatic visual improvement to the space which will enhance the overall experience of companies looking to host events with us. The refurbishment will help to seamlessly connect the three existing halls with the soon to be constructed south pavilion entrance, which will create a vibrant and impactful look that befits a market-leading convention and conference centre.”

Sarah Windrum, Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), said: “This construction work marks the start of the refurbishment of the lower halls which, along with the creation of the Commonwealth Convention Centre starting in the autumn, will be a significant addition to the area’s conference and exhibitions market.

“It is vital we attract delegates to the city and wider region both during UK City of Culture and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and beyond to secure the long-term prosperity of our area.

“That is one of the main focuses of the CWLEP’s Strategic Reset Framework as we reset our economy for a successful, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future.”