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A Peek Inside The Spa

AS Bridlington Spa heads towards its re-opening date at the end of May, reporter Alan Brook paid a visit to the site to see if the resort's most famous landmark was beginning to show some of the promised new sparkle designed to make it one of the biggest and best venues in the country ...

Since work began two years ago, the grand old lady of Bridlington's seafront has at times been a sorry sight but the first signs of the sparkle which will make her the glittering jewel in the resort's crown are beginning to emerge. To view the video click here

The cost of creating a first class multi-purpose venue designed to keep the best of Bridlington's best-loved landmarks and add first class facilities to ensure its success for the future grew from an estimated 15million to over 18.5million.

Unexpected problems on site, which caused the project to run over its original July 2007 opening date, and upgrades to the original specifications including around 1million on high-tech conference aids and theatre lighting, sound and effects systems, were said to be the reason.

But, for the first time, the inside of the Spa is beginning to look something like a building and it already contains some stunning features.

The crowning glory in the Royal Hall is the famous glass dome.

Unseen for years, having been blacked out, every pane of its arching, patterned, leaded glass canopy has been cleaned and restored to its original splendour when it drew gasps of approval from those who visited this art deco palace when it opened in 1932.

It is now fitted with an electronically operated black-out curtain to shut out the light if that is what is needed.

The ornate, circular frieze has been repainted in colours of the period and reaching out across the ceiling is stunning sunburst gilding.

Other similar decorations which surround the centre have also been magnificently restored.

Many will remember its famous 1930s pyramid-style art-deco glass lamps.

Replicas will soon be back on the walls to complete its original look.

This time, however, like the rest of the complex, it is packed with a whole range of high-tech equipment to enable it to be a venue for anything from rock concerts and world class sporting events to exhibitions, conferences, even tea dances, if that is what people want.

Able to hold an audience of up to 3,700 people, there will be few places to beat it.

The stage is still where it was but the familiar tall, small-paned bay window visible from the promenade outside has gone. Blacked out and hidden behind the stage, it served no purpose.

Instead the space has been filled with ceiling-to-floor glass, giving a panoramic view of the bay and letting natural light flood in.

The last major item to be installed, to protect against damage by other ongoing work, will be a new spring ballroom floor made of beech.

It will be exactly the same size as the original, which had the reputation of being the finest sprung floor in the country.

It is one of the reasons most of the building, home to around 120 workers and 20 staff, now has heating on – but not for their benefit!

Anne Chamberlain, project manager for the council who has "lived" on site for two years, explained.

"We have to keep moisture out and achieve a fairly even temperature of around 20C because of all the new hardwood which is being put in."

As well as the 750sq metre dance floor, there are several wooden floors and dozens of quality cherry wood doors. Seating in this area will be movable, as it was before, to cope with different uses.

Upstairs at balcony level – the former solarium areas and once the haunt of palm court teas – there are now offices and meeting rooms and the balcony, which will have fixed seating, is being fitted out with flooring in the same art-deco colours.

There is also a new bar area and new loos.

Fans of the Spa Theatre, built in 1907, are in for a treat.

It is going to look magnificent.

Already its dome and circular frieze have been restored and tons of rotting and decayed plaster moulding have been replaced by specialist craftsmen. It has been re-painted in crimson and gold and the sweeping front of the circle is to be given the same treatment.

The proscenium arch around the stage has been picked out in cream and gold and high quality seating in red plush is on its way to complete the picture as it would have originally looked.

Reducing the number of seats from 930 to 675 means wider aisles, more space and more comfort. It has also meant better access from different areas, including for disabled visitors.

The reduced seating has also enabled a state-of-the-art sound, lighting and effects control room to be built at the back of the stalls.

Previously it had been houses in a shed-like structure on the roof.

And future performers have not been forgotten. Widely accepted as being substandard, the old dressing rooms have been replaced by half-a-dozen new ones of varying sizes, many with en-suite facilities.

A key element of the redesign was to give the whole building a multi-functional ability, not only for different types of events but for different events happening independently at the same time.

Suites of rooms suitable for anything from small private parties and weddings through to conference break-out rooms, business presentations and a host of other uses have been created and take full advantage of the Spa's seafront location with panoramic views of the bay.

The top-of-the-range Harbour Suite overlooks the bay and harbour.

The old Marine Room has lost its line of steel columns and been revamped as the Gallery Suite overlooking South Marine Drive and Pembroke Gardens.

The former Burlington Suite is now part of a straight through front-to-back public area leading off the new entrance in South Marine Drive.

It sits above what used to be the Tillie Morrison bar and daylight floods in from either end.

The new entrance itself looks impressive. Automatic sliding doors open into a spacious reception area which is being fitted out with a box office and a foyer bar.

Catering, from snacks to a banquet, will be handled by a new cafeteria with hot and cold snacks and a brand new extensively-equipped professional catering kitchen.

Work is also well advanced on the outside of the building, with the main roof areas completed and other building works.

External painting is yet to be finished as is work on a new paved area and the roadway outside the new entrance.

Further improvements to the surrounding area, in particular the route from the Spa to the harbour top and town centre, will follow under the council's Spa Environs regeneration scheme.

Alan Menzies, the council's director of planning and economic regeneration, has kept a close eye on the scheme and has been largely responsible for upping the bill by insisting on the level of quality he feels the building should have.

"The cost of the works is still around 18.5million but with fittings that should come to just over 19million.

"We have been fortunate to get additional European funding which takes the grant funding to 10.4million.

"Wherever we can, we have gone for quality.

"This is something you are only going to do every 100 years.

"I am pleased with the progress we have made. We have had our challenges and managed to overcome them all.

"I think this will be a building the people of Bridlington and the East Riding as a whole will be proud of," said Mr Menzies.

Waites Construction, which has been responsible for the work, is expected to officially hand the site back to the council in April.

There will then be a few weeks of training and operation to ensure everything works as it should before it opens with a rock concert by the Pigeon Detectives on May 31.

It marks the start of a week of events culminating in a public open day on Saturday, June 7.

 
 
 

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