Charles Cruft would have loved it. Just as you thought it could not get any bigger, the Kennel Club has announced plans to expand Crufts show into the Arena and Pavilion areas of the NEC at Birmingham.
The move, which will offer 15,300 sq m more space for the show, will free up areas in Hall 5 and Halls 3 and 3A when the main ring moves to the Arena and the Special Events Ring also moves. It is almost like adding on another ‘Hall 4’ on to the event in terms of additional floor area.
Crufts 2007 will occupy the Arena and Pavilions 1 and 2 as well as Halls 1 to 5. Pavilion 1 will be used exclusively for Obedience.
It now costs the Kennel Club £1.7 million to hire five halls at the NEC for Crufts Show and the larger accommodation will push the hire costs in excess of £2million.
It is thought that more space will be given to Discover Dogs, the aisles of which have become congested in recent years. It will also allow the noisy Special Events Ring to be confined to its own area away from the breed rings and traders who have had to sustain the barrage from the microphones in recent years.
Placing the main ring in the 10,000 sq m Arena will also allow Crufts to provide up to 1000 more seats around the ring although it is thought that these will still be free each day, except on the last day for best in show and group judging.
Space in Hall 5 which had hosted the big ring for the last few years will be opened up for more breed rings and trade stands.
Exhibitors who attended the first Crufts at the NEC will recall the Pavilion between Hall 1 and the Arena was used for Discover Dogs when the dogs were displayed on benches.
The Arena is the popular concert venue which has played host to top bands since it opened providing a clear span and pillar free void for stages and excellent viewing for audiences.
In a press release issued on August 1st the KC said,- ‘Crufts 2006 attracted 143,000 visitors to the largest canine event in the world at the NEC, Birmingham, and was viewed by the vast majority as a phenomenal success.
‘The Events Team and Crufts Committee’ mindful of health and safety issues, monitored the situation at the event and on their return to Clarges Street received feedback as a result of this increased attendance. Comments and observations included long queues, over busy gangways, noise, overcrowding and discomfort for dog exhibitors on getting to rings from benches, for example.
‘As a result of this feedback an investigation was initiated with a view to extending the Show into the NEC Arena to accommodate the Special Events Ring and increase the audience for Best in show to 6,000 seats, which sells out by October every year!
‘This move will provide more seats for the Special Events Ring, and give more people the opportunity to see the ever popular excitement of events and Best in show first hand without concern regarding noise. It will also bring with it many other benefits, such as increased space for rings and benching, more space to spread out the Discover Dogs area, increased gangways in the trade stand areas creating a better shopping experience and more catering facilities, as Pavilion 2 will be a dedicated catering area’.
Mrs Vanessa McAlpine, Events Executive commented, ‘It became clear at Crufts 2006 that we had to look at ways to increase the size of the event for 2007, as both dog entries and visitor numbers in particular, continue to increase.
‘The feedback received has confirmed this, so for Crufts 2007 we will be taking the Arena as well as the five halls, which will make a positive difference for dogs, exhibitors, judges and visitors alike’.
Vanessa concluded, ‘Pavilion One will be used exclusively for Obedience, with tiered seating and ample room for benching and exercise. Pressure on rehearsal time should also be relieved with an end to late night rehearsals for Obedience Judges. Whilst some competitors will now be based in Pavilion One and the Arena, they should not feel perturbed, as the Pavilion and Arena are only a short walk from the other Halls and it is our intention to make the area as user friendly as possible, for both competitors and visitors alike. We feel that this additional space will make the Crufts experience more enjoyable for all.’
The news represents yet another stage in the development of dog shows at the NEC which started back in 1978 the Ladies‚ Kennel Association moved there after running shows at London’s Olympia. Back in 1978 the occupied one and half halls at the venue and latterly three halls for its December show in the calendar.
Crufts moved to the NEC in 1991 for its Centenary show but it is only in recent years that huge surpluses have been made. The 1999 Crufts Show made a surplus of £409,859, an 11% rise on 1998 when the surplus was £363,856. Income was up £135,096 to £2,580,343, a rise of 5.5% on 1998. The 2000 Crufts show made a surplus of £348,471 - £50,000 less than 1999. Income in 2003 was up by 2.5% to £2,646,352. The 2001 ‘May’ Crufts achieved income of £2,522,039 some £147,323 less than 2000 but still showed a surplus of £270,228 - £73,178 less (-21%) on the previous year.
In 2002 the show produced a surplus of £346,209 up by £75,981 on the delayed 2001 show from an income of £2,732,840. In 2003 the show made a surplus of £564,714 out of a turnover of £2,972,929 but this was topped in 2004 with a record surplus of £707,132 when, the turnover reached £3.2m for the first time.
In 2005 the surplus was £618,000 on a turnover of £3.3m. Insurance and professional charges doubled to £61,000 and advertising and public relations activities were up by £26,000 to £253,000. Gate, catalogue and seating income was again £1.1m.
In March this year Crufts show attracted a record gate with an estimated 143,000 visitors coming through the turnstiles. The show had consistently turned in gate of over 100,000 in the last few years.
The National Exhibition Centre, the busiest exhibition centre in Europe, stages more than 180 exhibitions each year, ranging from Crufts and Clotheshow Live to international trade exhibitions like IPEX and the famous Spring Fair.
Up to four million people visit the centre each year. With 21 halls totalling 200,000 square metres (two million square feet) it is also the biggest exhibition centre in Britain and seventh largest in Europe.
Although renowned for large-scale international trade fairs, the NEC has an active interest in helping smaller specialist shows develop, providing advice, support and essential services to organisers.
Only last month the NEC’s chief executive Mr Andrew Morris announced that it was to team up with the Birmingham based University of Central England to support a course which would lead to a professional diploma and master’s degree in exhibition management.
The joint venture is an effort to drive up standards in the £9bn per year industry which does so much to support the infrastructure surrounding the venue and airport.
Andrew Morris wants the course to wake up an industry struggling to raise its profile and attract more big international events. He says the industry has been a "sleeping giant", making a major contribution to the economy but without formal qualifications or "real training" in its management ranks. Mr Morris said: "The industry will fail to grow and develop if it doesn't attract and train the right calibre of staff."
NEC, which is owned by Birmingham City Council, dominate, along with Earl’s Court and Olympia and Exel in London's Docklands, a fragmented industry populated by smaller exhibition halls in cities around the country.
Mr Morris emphasised, "We should be riding on the crest of a wave. But instead many exhibition companies find themselves fighting to match, let alone keep ahead of, customer expectations. For a growing number of shows, visitor numbers are at best static and at worse shrinking."
The industry's trade body, the Association of Exhibition Organisers, is using a study of the sector's economic contribution to press the Government to use exhibitions and conferences as part of its efforts to attract more visitors to Britain.
It is estimated that exhibitions and associated events generate spending of £9.3bn a year, contributing £4.1bn to the gross domestic product and support 137,000 jobs. The Chancellor collects £1bn a year in tax while the industry attracts 17 million visitors who spend £720m on accommodation, £258m on travel, £403m on food and drink, £312m on shopping and £179m on entertainment.
The NEC, which is being used by its owner to help finance regeneration in Birmingham, is currently spending £40m to modernise its 30-year-old complex. Turnover is £145m, with operating profits of £32m, but after financing debts of £200m, inflated by the cost of the city's symphony hall, it makes a small loss.