Belfast Telegraph

Ulster's entertainment venue supreme marks half-dozen anniversary

By Graham Bardgett

A very special sixth birthday celebration takes place tonight - US President Bill Clinton hailed it as a huge success for Northern Ireland.

A very special sixth birthday celebration takes place tonight.

US President Bill Clinton hailed it as a huge success for Northern Ireland.

And it has more than lived up to its expected achievements in the six years it has been open.

The Odyssey has been a welcome addition to Belfast's skyline.

Tourists and rock concert goers all flock to the riverside arena as Belfast soars ahead in the "must-see" visitor stakes of the 21st century.

It has transformed rock and pop events in the city into even bigger crowd pullers than they were before.

It is now rivalling the most successful concert and sports arenas in Europe, with three million people having already gone through its doors.

Tonight the Odyssey celebrates its six years as Belfast's premiere live entertainment venue.

And on Monday pop icon Sir Cliff Richard will be at the arena to woo the crowds again.

With just three weeks to Christmas, 2006 has been a busy year for the Odyssey, hosting 30% more events than in 2005 - making this an especially big birthday, said organisers of the celebrations.

Since opening in December 2000, the Arena has hosted some 700 events, generating more than £75m for the Northern Ireland economy.

From showjumping to Disney On Ice, it has been a winning year for everyone involved at the Odyssey Arena.

The Arena has staged a catalogue of sell-out concerts from Bruce Springsteen and James Blunt to the Take That reunion tour.

Apart from the multitude of pop and rock stars, the Belfast Giants ice hockey team are also based there.

Mamma Mia's spectacular 29 shows brought in the crowds.

It also hosted Northern Ireland's largest ever conference, for Rotary International Great Britain and Ireland.

Commenting on the success of the Arena, Chief Executive Nicky Dunn said: "The success of the Arena has been truly overwhelming.

" Not only has it proved to be a huge success with the people of Northern Ireland but it is a firm favourite with major international and European tours.

"It is not just the quality and volume of events that make our sixth birthday memorable, but also the versatility the Arena has shown in catering for a wide range of events, from showjumping to Disney on Ice - confirming it is a venue for everyone."

The success of the Arena looks set to continue, with 2007 dates already in high demand.

The New Year will get off to a rocking start with shows from Pussycat Dolls, Dolly Parton, Justin Timberlake and four further dates from the Westlife boys. What's more, major tennis tournament Tennis Legends 2007, will make its first visit to Belfast at the Odyssey Arena next February with former Wimbledon champions John McEnroe and Pat Cash.

Summing up, the organisers say 2006 has been a busy year for the Laganside venue, which has hosted more events in its sixth year than in any previous year.

The Odyssey Arena is Ireland's first and only purpose built arena and is a multi-purpose venue capable of hosting concerts, ice hockey, athletics, family entertainment events and exhibitions and conferences.

The development cost of the venue was £35m and maximum audience capacity is 10,000.

Oh, those starry, starry nights

Year 1

Opening Night: 7,000 sell out Giants' first game versus Scottish Eagles

President Clinton, December 13, 2000: Keynote speeches by, President Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair and First Minister David Trimble broadcast around the world with a live audience of 8,500.

World Amateur Boxing Championships, June 3-10, 2001 - brought athletes, coaches, officials and supporters from all around the world to Northern Ireland

Indoor Supercross, October 26-27, 2001: Indoor Supercross (Arena transformed by 4,000 tonnes of earth). Has now become annual event

Year 2

Belfast Giants, March, 2002: Giants win Superleague Championship in only their second season and attract highest UK crowds

Westlife, June, 2002: Westlife perform 12 sold-out concerts in front of 115,000 fans breaking UK arena records for aggregate attendance by single artist.

Oasis, June, 2002: Ireland's largest indoor concert as Oasis perform to 10,000 fans - twice

Year 3

Disney on Ice, March 2003: Over 40,000 attend 'Disney on Ice presents Beauty and The Beast' (9 shows).

Harlem Globe Trotters: 7,500 attend sold-out event

Year 4

Meat Loaf, December, 2003: Three sold-out concerts during record month when over 96,000 attend Arena events

Andrea Bocelli, November, 2004: His only concert in both the UK and Ireland hosted

Shania Twain, Eric Clapton, Britney Spears and Cher: All new artists at the Odyssey Arena in 2004

Year 5:

FIM Indoor Trial World Championships: First to be held in Northern Ireland

Concerts highlights have included Phil Collins, Bryan Adams and McFly.

Year 6:

MAMMA MIA! March, 2006:The world's number one musical appeared for a spectacular 29 performances

Rotary International Great Britain and Ireland Annual Conference 2006: April, 2006: Northern Ireland's largest conference visited the Arena with over 2,500 members

Belfast Telegraph


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