Glimpse of the future

The Gazette today exclusively reveals these stunning plans for a GBP 180m flagship casino and leisure complex on Middlesbrough’s Middlehaven site.

They have been drawn up by Aspers, today named as Tees Valley Regeneration’s preferred developer for the north edge of Middlehaven Dock.

It is hoped they will put Middlesbrough on the international map as a leading leisure and business destination.

A regional casino will take centre stage in the massive £180m entertainment complex.

A 5,000-seat arena for entertainment and sport along with a top hotel are also planned in a development of beautiful architecture.

Up to 4,000 jobs could be created by the project which would be created under the banner of Aspers on the Quay.

The Aspinalls Group and the Australian-based Packer Organisation are putting forward the plans as a joint venture under the Aspers name. They have been chosen as the preferred developers of the complex by Tees Valley Regeneration.

The development would include:

– A 49,000 sq ft casino along with public areas, food and drink outlets, a multi-purpose exhibition and conference area, a spa suite and a 32,000 sq ft outside water garden.

– Covered parking for 1,500 vehicles.

– A 4.5 star, 168 bedroom hotel with a showroom and conference and exhibition space.

– A 5,000 seat arena with capacity for a further 2,000 people standing. It would cater for events such as concerts, events and exhibitions.

– An initial budget of £500,000 for public art.

– The setting up of the Aspers Foundation which would be a local charity to support projects for the community in Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley. A levy would also be made to also raise cash for local projects.

Damian Aspinall, 45, is chief executive of Aspers. He is the son of famous gambling entrepreneur and zoo keeper John Aspinall.

His business partner is James Packer, reportedly Australia’s richest man and son of the late billionaire Kerry Packer.

Mr Aspinall, whose partner is TV presenter and model Donna Air, has spoken of his delight at becoming the preferred bidder.

In order for the casino to be built the town has to win a licence from the Government.

Middlesbrough Council is bidding to be selected by the Government to host the new super casino.

Tees Valley Regeneration has been spearheading the campaign to persuade the Government to allocate a major casino to Middlesbrough.

A panel set up by the Department for Culture is expected to report by the end of the year on the areas to be allocated new casinos.

Casino facts

– Three of the world’s biggest casino companies were involved in the final bidding process to be selected to take forward the super casino scheme at Middlehaven.

– The Aspers bid was successful against competition from Las Vegas Sands, which bid in partnership with Middlesbrough FC, and the Isle of Capri, based in Louisiana.

– The Gambling Act will allow three new types of casinos to operate in Britain.

– Under current proposals one regional or super casino will be permitted, along with eight large and eight small casinos.

– There are hopes, however, that the number of super casinos permitted will increase, possibly to eight.

– A super casino would be allowed to have up to 1,250 unlimited jackpot gaming machines.

– The Government expects that a super casino will be a major development, offering clear potential for regeneration.

– The Advisory Panel is expected to announce its recommendations to the Government by the end of this year.

– It has invited local authorities in the country to put in bids by the end of March for one of the new casinos.

Water theme for complex

Striking architecture is promised by Aspers in its massive development planned for Middlehaven.

Water and the life of Middlesbrough’s most famous son, Captain James Cook, are among the design inspirations.

Aspers say their form of building will have a character „sympathetic to Middlehaven’s heritage and one that speaks with confidence about the future“.

„The entertainment venue and the string of new public places around the building are to become the catalyst for growth and a vital link to the prosperity of Middlehaven as a whole,“ says an Aspers spokesman.

The company said that water has a deeply embedded relationship with the site.

Fountains, water cascades and water curtains will be among the stunning features of the development.

The Cook Promenade will be one of the main public areas at the complex.

A series of works of art will celebrate Cook’s life along the promenade beside the dockside.

Bars, cafes and restaurants are also proposed alongside the promenade which could also become the venue for an annual Festival of the Sea.

„The natural legacy of the river, Captain Cook’s relationship to the seven seas, the industrial heritage of local shipbuilding, and the dock itself all stand as grand messages on the impact of water in shaping Middlehaven.

„We hope to enhance this legacy,“ says the spokesman.

The company expects an influx of local and international tourists at its outstanding hotel.

The arena with 5,000 seats and space for a further 2,000 standing spectators is designed to accommodate events ranging from large exhibitions to centre stage concerts and sports including tennis and five-a-side football.

Aspers‘ hopes for Tees site welcomed

Aspers‘ aspirations for the Middlehaven site have been welcomed on Teesside.

Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon said: „I welcome the fact that a company as respected as Aspers is interested in investing in the town.

„It demonstrates the attractiveness of the Middlehaven site and the clear progress Middlesbrough has made in recent years.“

Cleveland Chief Constable Sean Price added: „There is a definite vibrancy about Middlehaven.

„The new police station will be built there and the idea of a modern entertainment village nearby is an exciting prospect.

„Cleveland Police sees itself as very much part of the community and we welcome any new businesses prepared to work with local partners to bring new opportunities, facilities and lasting benefits to the town.“

Joanne Fryett, Tees Valley policy manager for the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: „Middlehaven provides this area with world class facilities and over time will become a magnet for jobs and prosperity.

„The Chamber is extremely excited about the opportunities it presents.“

Evening Gazette editor Darren Thwaites said: „A casino would have a tremendous effect on the whole of the Tees Valley regeneration plans, creating up to 4,000 jobs and boosting the economy.

„As well as a centrepiece casino it would bring with it family entertainment with a massive arena, restaurants and bars, lifting the profile of the area and attracting inward investment.

„This is an exciting bid which would make us a market leader. It shows the extent of ambition and drive that is coursing through the Tees Valley.“

We listened to what the town wanted, what the town needs and then we tried to deliver it

Damian Aspinall is chief executive of Aspers, the company behind Tees Valley Regeneration’s preferred bid for the casino and leisure complex in Middlehaven. Today he speaks exclusively to Simon Haworth on his passion for the proposals and his love of Teesside and its people.

Damian Aspinall has become a passionate fan of Middlesbrough and its surrounding area.

As chief executive of Aspers, he is likely to be a massive player in the creation of a multi-million leisure and entertainment complex.

Damian, whose partner is TV presenter and model Donna Air, may be London-based but he speaks with a love of the area normally only found in someone Teesside born and bred.

And he is convinced the Aspers on the Quay complex, with its leisure and business facilities, will be the catalyst to regenerate the whole town and give it a positive international reputation.

He told the Gazette: „The whole area will get lifted. We will market this all over Europe.

„We have offices in Hamburg, Paris, Madrid and Italy and will be saying to people ‚Here’s a world class facility, come and have your conferences and exhibitions in Middlesbrough‘.“

Mr Aspinall believes his bid has been given the nod by Tees Valley Regeneration because he listened to what local people wanted.

He said: „I think we listened to the community. We didn’t come and think this is the product that has worked elsewhere in the world so we are going to put this box in your town because it has worked elsewhere.

„We listened to what the town wanted and what the town needs and then we tried to deliver that.

„I wanted our proposal to be right for the people of Middlesbrough.“

He said the results are extremely exciting and the consequences potentially huge.

He said: „What we have delivered is a world-wide quality entertainment complex with bars and restaurants and a boardwalk, exhibition and conference centres and there is less than 10pc of the space for gaming.

„It’s all done in a very iconic design. I really believe that it will be a huge catalyst for the regeneration of Middlesbrough.

„I am 100pc convinced that in three to five years‘ time, if Middlesbrough is chosen, people will come from all over Europe to have conferences and exhibitions in Middlesbrough because of the facilities of Aspers on the Quay.

„I don’t think at the moment Middlesbrough is on that radar but this will put Middlesbrough there.

„We are a company with a very strong vision. We very much believe it’s not just gaming, it’s the complete entertainment package.

„Families will come for lunches and dinners and won’t even go near the gaming. It’s a facility for the whole town.“

Mr Aspinall believes the development will bring £60m worth of investment into the town.

And he is dedicated to ensuring that a positive knock-on effect is felt by local businesses.

He said: „We will employ 1,000 to 1,500 people directly. I think in effect there will be 4,000 jobs created directly or indirectly across the region.

„We will buy locally. The local bakers will have to employ more because we will be buying thousands of bread rolls a week, the meat supplier the same and so on. We will buy everything we can locally.“

Currently there is only one licence to be issued by the Government for the super casino.

It is hoped this will be raised to possibly eight.

Mr Aspinall believes Middlesbrough has all the right qualities to succeed – even for the very first super casino licence.

„With one it’s tough for everyone,“ he said.

„There are 40 people making applications. The Government may extend that to four or eight. I think Middlesbrough has a fantastic opportunity. It has an opportunity for one.

„Places like Manchester and Newcastle have had millions and millions of funds put into them. They don’t need it more than Middlesbrough. In my view Middlesbrough has a very, very compelling case.“

He praised the local team bidding for the creation of a casino. He said: „I have the highest regard for Ray Mallon and Joe Docherty. I think the town is very lucky. Their heart and souls are buried in that town, in helping Middlesbrough.“

And he said he has been so touched by the people of Teesside he wants to help its development all the way.

„If Joe and Ray want me to help out in anyway I can I will be there, not just for the casino.

„The people of Middlesbrough seem such decent people it will be an honour to work alongside people like that. In my eyes it is the heart and soul of the country.“