Aberdeen’s stunning new £333 million exhibition and conference complex opened its doors for the first time on Thursday – and council bosses said there is even more to come.
The stunning 15,000 capacity P&J Live arena will be the heartbeat of the site, which also includes meeting rooms, three conference and exhibition halls and two on-site hotels.
And as they hailed it as a game-changing moment for the city, council leaders said the massive project was merely “the first piece of the puzzle”.
The development – capable of attracting some of the world’s finest acts and major conferences – offers room for even more hotels and performance space.
Long-term plans are also being prepared for a rail link from the airport to the arena and then on to Dyce station and into the city – at a potential cost of £70 million.
The venue becomes the largest new entertainment and conference complex in Europe. It is three times the size of the previous AECC.
When construction started three years ago, few could have imagined the sheer scale of the landmark that would emerge from the rural Bucksburn site.
With the cavernous, 15,000 capacity arena, nine meeting rooms and three conference and exhibition halls at the P&J Live venue at its heart – and two on-site hotels – walking into the main building reminds you of a modern airport.
What have been dubbed “living walls”, covered in grass, provide a gateway to the building as planes land overhead and the Hilton and Aloft hotels – the latter the first in Scotland – stand nearby.
There will be several test events at the complex, including a ticketed public open day this weekend, before the venue welcomes delegates for its first conference on September 3.
That honour will go to the Offshore Europe conference and exhibition.
International acts already confirmed to appear include Michael Buble, Alice Cooper, Lewis Capaldi and Rod Stewart as well as comedians Jack Whitehall and Russell Howard.
Elton John will bring his worldwide farewell tour to the venue in November 2020.
Yesterday, a large crowd gathered outside to listen to a series of speeches before a plaque was unveiled, the ribbon cut and the doors thrown open.
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “This has been a huge investment by the council and I’m sure it is something that will make people in the city very proud.
“This is just the first piece of the jigsaw. There is more room on the site to expand and the complex will complement everything else that is happening in the city.”
Fellow co-leader Jenny Laing said the development would help anchor Aberdeen on the international stage – while also attracting more people to live and work in the city.
She said: “We thought really hard about where it should be located and the links to the airport were something we realised would be very valuable.
“A link between the complex and Dyce station is something we have also looked at and would be keen to speak to the Scottish Government about.”
Business leaders also hailed the venue as a “game changer” for the city.
Adrian Watson of Aberdeen Inspired said: “The scale of the development really is awe inspiring and this will have a major impact across the city.
“It will allow us not just to attract the big acts but also global conferences that were previously out of our reach and bring thousands to Aberdeen.”
Opposition SNP group leader Stephen Flynn, meanwhile, said: “This is clearly a fantastic facility and everyone will be hoping that it will attract the big acts and conferences to the city.
“But I’m sure the people of Aberdeen will remember next time the administration says they have no money that they have just spent the best part of £350m on this project.”