During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Torbay Council has taken temporary control of the company that manages the Riviera International Conference Centre (RICC), to help safeguard its future.
The new arrangements will help futureproof Torquay’s flagship building, which opened in 1987 and has a range of fantastic facilities including international conferencing and events venue, swimming pool, leisure centre, health and fitness suite, and cafe.
Back in February the Council agreed to fund landlord improvement works at the RICC, securing a planned lease deal with Parkwood Leisure to operate the RICC going forward. The Council and Parkwood were still agreeing Heads of Terms for the contract when the Government announced that the RICC would be one of many leisure facilities to have to close to combat the spread of COVID-19. The current lease was due to run out on 31 March so a quick decision needed to be made in the short term.
As a result the Council and Parkwood Leisure have agreed to postpone the transfer of the lease, with the Council continuing to run the RICC during the COVID-19 crisis, with many of the staff being furloughed under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (paying 80% of wages) during the ongoing closure.
Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council, said: “The RICC is one of Torbay’s most important and well-loved community resources and I am pleased we have come to an arrangement to help protect its immediate future – without this intervention it may well have gone into administration.
“We have come to an agreement with Parkwood Leisure to postpone the transfer to them, and the Council will take temporary control of the Riviera International Conference Centre with immediate effect. The RICC management company will become wholly owned by the Council and we will be able to transfer the lease to Parkwood at an appropriate time in the future.
“We look forward to working with Parkwood Leisure again later on when the RICC is able to reopen, and in the meantime we would like to say thank you and pay tribute to all of the outgoing directors on the board, including current chairman Roger Mann, for all their hard work and selfless commitment over many years.”
Simon Jolly, Managing Director of the Riviera International Conference Centre, said: “It was frustrating that the transfer of the business to Parkwood Leisure had to be postponed at such an advanced stage, but it was of course completely understandable given the circumstances of the current COVID-19 crisis. However, the swift confirmation that the Council would step in to support this vital facility was gratefully received. It has been a privilege to have worked with the current Board over the last 8 years, and to have achieved so much during that time. I now look forward to welcoming and working with the new Board”.
Roger Mann, outgoing Chairman of the Riviera International Conference Centre Board, said: “The retiring Board is proud of its achievement in reducing Torbay Council’s support grant from £950,000 to £350,000 over the past 8 years.
“Over that period, it has maintained the Centre’s reputation for excellence, and resisted the temptation to curtail its loss-making conference work in order to boost its profit-making leisure offering.
“The Board will always remain indebted to its diligent and talented management team, and staff members, without whose efforts, these successes could never have been realised.”
Mike Worsnop, Business Development Director at Parkwood Leisure, said: “Whilst we are naturally disappointed to have to postpone the transfer of the RICC to Parkwood Leisure’s management we remain committed to the partnership and are as excited as ever to take over once the current COVID-19 crisis begins to ease. We’ve worked hard to secure the running of the RICC and are grateful to the council for stepping in to protect the future of this iconic facility at this difficult and unprecedented time.”
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