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Millennium Dome set for £200m Beatles makeover

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A Japanese bid to turn the Millennium Dome into a new 'urban enter tainment centre' themed around the Beatles appeared to edge into the lead in the two-way pitch for its after-use last week when Nomura-backed Dome Europe presented its scheme to Gerald Kaufman's select committee hearing on the issue. And the bidders revealed for the first time that Branson Coates' Body Zone alone cost almost three-quar ters of the price of the £42 million Rogers-designed Dome structure itself.

Nomura's principal finance group managing director Guy Hands told the House of Commons committee last week that his bid includes plans to invest £200 million into 'content enhancement', including an 'anchor music attraction' which turns the clock back to the 1960s. 'The Beatles Yellow Submarine Adventure' will take its place alongside Badlands, a virtual reality interactive series of team-based simulated motion games, and Play Europe, an 'indoor adventure garden of dazzling flora and fauna, dancing fountains, interactive topiary, mazes and grottoes.'

The ideas - 'celebrating the richness of European culture' - have been masterminded by Dome Europe's partner, HyperEntertainment, and include sections on the past, present and future.

Hands also revealed for the first time that £30 million was spent on Branson Coates' Body Zone and, asked whether that was money well spent, replied, flatly, 'no'. Under its ownership, Nomura would aim to build 100,000m 2on land outside the Dome over 10 years.

But Hands insisted that the 'big, physical changes' inside the Dome could be complete inside a month, with a relaunch pencilled in for February next year. Ove Arup and Par tners representative Gwilyn Jones said a detailed planning application for a new entrance building had been submitted to Greenwich Borough Council.

Nomura is working with masterplanners Benoy, Patrick Davies and SMC group.

He added that a survey Nomura conducted revealed that while 74 per cent of visitors thought the Dome was a great achievement, only 16 per cent thought it 'fun'.

Meanwhile Legacy, the other bidder in the government-run competition, said it aimed to invest about £150 million on the project to turn the Dome into 'a world-leading working and living environment', stripping out the zones. Instead, the Dome's interior would be filled with lightweight structures 'on a human scale' in which to house small businesses.

The company is working with Lifschutz Davidson on the business park idea. About 9000 people could work inside and 5400 more outside, said business development manager Bruce Walker. He hoped 3500 local jobs would be included in the total 14,400. But large companies such as 3Com, BT and MTL have already said they want space, as have the Imperial College and Open University. Development of Legacy's scheme, which includes a hotel and conference centre outside the Dome, would be in three, three- to four-year phases of 35,000m 2each.

A final decision on a winner will be made in the middle of next month.

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