£17m redevelopment aimed at making Odyssey 'biggest leisure attraction in Ireland'
A £17m redevelopment of The Odyssey in Belfast aims to make it "by far the biggest leisure and visitor attraction in Northern Ireland".
As part of the project Rockies Bar, a favourite of fans of ice hockey team Belfast Giants, closed in June and Pizza Hut is expected to shut just before Christmas.
However, the UK's largest cinema chain Cineworld and bowling operator Hollywood Bowl will move in to replace the current operators of the cinema and bowling alley.
They are the first anchor tenants to confirm their position in what used to be called the Odyssey Pavilion.
The SSE Arena beside The Odyssey is unaffected by the redevelopment project.
Around £4m is expected to be spent on the new cinema with a rolling fit-out providing "minimal disruption" to visitors, while the bowling centre will close in late 2020 to allow for a 20-lane refit.
Work will begin at the end of this month, bringing 80 construction jobs, and is expected to be completed in spring 2021.
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Matagorda 2, which acquired the Belfast complex three years ago, hopes to fill 14 more units, including nine restaurants and one bar as well two or three leisure facilities.
The existing mezzanine level will be removed and rebuilt to accommodate the new units.
The Odyssey will partially close in early January 2020 once the site set-up works are completed, but the cinema, bowling alley and W5 will remain open with new temporary access points being provided.
Guy Hollis, consultant for Matagorda 2, said Cineworld and Hollywood Bowl could see the "huge potential".
"We are delighted to be moving forward with our plans and they think this is the best place for them to come," he added.
"We will soon be in a position to reveal new lettings, which will raise the bar on the standard of offering currently in the complex.
"We hope to get some new operators that aren't in Northern Ireland already."
W5's previously announced £4.5m investment will also take place at the same time as the main works at the venue.
Odyssey Trust Company chairman Eric Porter said "we've all been aware that the pavilion has been somewhat rundown".
"Restaurants and businesses have closed and it has not been the exciting place that it was originally, and it was very successful originally," he added.
"We are hugely delighted and a bit relieved that this investment has come along and this project is perfectly timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the businesses.
"I don't know where you would find something similar in the UK. It'll be by far the biggest leisure and visitor attraction in Northern Ireland and maybe the biggest in Ireland."
Both men stressed that the complex would be a "family destination" with no plans to reopen nightclubs such as Box and the Beach Club, which were once located there.
The Odyssey opened in 2000, a project led by businessman Peter Curistan, and was 50% funded by a £45m grant from the Millennium Commission.