With the cutting of simple white ribbon, Aberdeen’s new multi-million-pound P&J Live complex officially opened yesterday.
And as they hailed it as a game-changing moment for the city, council leaders said the massive £333 million 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 Europe’s 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 Aeoloft 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 giant 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.”
Last night 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 £350 million on this project.”
All you need to know about P&J Live’s big open day
Tomorrow’s preview of P&J Live will be a stunning taster of everything the venue has to offer, its bosses have promised.
Thousands of people will flock to the £333 million complex when it opens to the public for the first time in a keenly-anticipated “first look”.
Visitors will be able to enjoy a vast array of activities and events, from live bands to following a trail of mini Oor Wullie statues, seeing the new bars and restaurant to taking photos with cut-outs of some of the huge stars lined-up to play P&J Live.
Louise Stewart, head of entertainment, exhibitions and marketing for the venue, said: “This day has been a long time coming and we cannot wait to welcome the public into P&J Live for the first time.
“We know they are going to love what they see, from the most modern arena in the country to the warm and welcoming bars and restaurant.
“The range of entertainment, activities and displays will reflect everything P&J Live will be offering in years to come – awesome acts, excellent events, stunning shows, fantastic food and drink and one of the best places in Scotland to spend an unforgettable night out.
“Everything we are offering tomorrow will be a stunning taster of what’s to come from P&J Live to bring a major boost to the people of the north-east and beyond.”
Preview@P&J Live has proved so popular all the free tickets have now been snapped up and there are no spaces left.
Those lucky enough to have bagged a spot will be able to see the massive arena, which has cutting edge acoustics, set up for an all-seated gig.
They can also stand on the stage where they can take pictures of themselves with cut-outs of stars like Lewis Capaldi, Liam Gallagher and Michael Buble.
The Showdeck VIP bar/suite will also be open to showcase its fantastic view of the arena.
Visitors can also explore the other impressive spaces at P&J Live including its concourse, three huge halls, plus conference suites and meeting rooms.
There will be live entertainment from bands including Dim The Lights, Verdict, the Nescol Jazz Combo and progressive metal band, Abridged.
Also, Original 106 will be on site all day, chatting to people about the world-class venue.
For families and younger visitors, P&J Live will host a special Mini Oor Wullie Bucket.
This will reflect the hugely popular Oor Wullie Bucket Trail across the north-east, which is raising funds for the Archie Foundation.
An Oor Wullie map can be picked up from the P&J merchandise stand in the concourse, where DCT Media staff will also be handing out goodie bags.