EICC expansion to let stars like Robbie entertain you

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IT is more used to playing host to business conferences than wild rock gigs.

But that could all be about to change as work begins today on a major expansion of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

The work, one of the biggest construction projects undertaken in Scotland this year, will last 30 months, cost 85 million and enable the venue to cater for fashion shows, sports events and rock gigs.

It is estimated the project will bring an estimated 2.35 billion to the city over the next 30 years.

The EICC has already been used to host sell-out stand-up comedy shows at the Fringe, including Bill Bailey and Jimmy Carr, but bosses hope to bring acts from around the world to the venue.

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Hans Rissmann, chief executive of the EICC, said: "People in Edinburgh have become increasingly familiar with the inside of the conference centre as we have grown into a major Fringe venue, but our new multi-purpose hall will also bring more intimate music events, fashion shows and small arena sports tournaments to the city.

"Our focus remains meeting the needs of the large conferences that move around the world's major cities, but moving floor technology means we will have the flexibility to stage more public events in the future."

With the venue's new wing, which will hold up to 1600 people in addition to its main auditoriums, city bosses are hoping to attract big acts from the rock and pop industry.

They point to names such as Robbie Williams, who tested his new album out at small gigs in Australia, and the Rolling Stones, who hired Martin Scorsese to film the hit documentary Shine a Light in the comparatively tiny Beacon Theatre in New York.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city's festivals and events champion, said: "As years of successful Fringe runs go to show, the EICC has much to offer outside of the corporate world, and this extension will provide yet more opportunities for the people of Edinburgh to enjoy a huge range of events, from Festival shows and sporting events to awards ceremonies and concerts."