How the Dome will take visitors for a ride

Time zones are out, timed tickets and 'hot spots' are in. Sounds like Alton Towers by the Thames, writes Chris Blackhurst

AT last we are nearer to understanding what will be in the Millennium Dome slowly rising on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich, south London.

A document submitted to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into the pounds 750m project, intended to be the year-long centrepiece of Britain's celebration of the past 1,000 years - and presumably the next 1,000 - discloses that it will contain ... theme park rides.

The 11-page paper from Imagination, the design consultancy hired originally by the Government to advise on the exhibition, explains how its plan for 12 "Time Zones" arranged like a clockface around the structure, each representing a different subject, was suddenly rejected. "Instead of the 12 Time Zones the new company [the organising body, New Millennium Experience] issued a completely new brief ... the new company asked that the Dome contain six 'hot spots' (akin to theme park rides) and other exhibits ..."

The Imagination submission says that visitors, rather than spending a full day at the dome, would now be on "timed tickets and spend only half a day at the site" - for a likely ticket price disclosed by Peter Mandelson, the Government minister in charge of the project, of around pounds 20 per adult. Tickets will cost a similar amount to those for Alton Towers which, of course, is a theme park in Staffordshire. But visitors to Alton Towers can spend the whole day enjoying the rides, rather than having to choose the morning or afternoon.

Imagination tells how its time concept was designed to tie in with the end of the millennium. The emphasis was on education and information, as well as entertainment. But under the new brief drawn up under the aegis of the then deputy prime minister, Michael Heseltine, in February, that all changed. Rather than the exhibition being the main attraction it was relegated to the sidelines - or, as Imagination puts it, to the perimeter area - with centre-stage going to Millennium Show devised by the West End impresario, Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

Since taking over the project, Mr Mandelson is understood to have embraced the new plan wholeheartedly. Mr Heseltine, as a member of the Millennium Commission, is still involved. Imagination, which was paid pounds 7.6m of public money for its 18 months' work, said it could not continue to advise "since the fundamentals of the project had changed so radically it was not possible or appropriate to produce detailed content design".

To be fair to Mr Mandelson - and before he complains - Imagination ends its sharply-worded submission to the committee by saying: "Although not what we originally envisaged, the exhibition will undoubtedly prove a great success and Imagination is proud to have played its part in realising the Millennium Commission's aspirations."

The consultancy, with turnover last year of pounds 50m, is the largest of its kind in Europe, advising major organisations such as the BBC, BT, Ford and Guinness. A spokeswoman stressed that after all its costs and suppliers' fees were paid from the pounds 7.6m of public money it earned from the Dome, the agency's actual profit was closer to pounds 1m.

Last week, the New Millennium Experience Company announced a list of design consultancies which will now be responsible for the inside of the Dome. They will be paid a total of pounds 30m and will begin installing their ideas next autumn.

A spokesman for New Millennium Experience said Imagination's proposal envisaged up to 100,000 people on site at one time. Under the new scheme, a maximum of 35,000 people would be admitted. With 12,000 people watching Sir Cameron's show, that will leave 23,000 roaming the site. Nevertheless, he predicted there would be no long queues for what he called the "large- scale attractions".

The New Millennium Experience spokesman offered the following breakdown of the pounds 750m cost of the project: pounds 50m on a national educational programme starting next month; pounds 200m on site clearance, infrastructure and building the dome; pounds 200m on as yet unspecified content; and total running costs of pounds 300m. He said the search for private sector backing, headed by US sports mogul Mark McCormack, was going "very well".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Reach Volunteering: Volunteer Trustee with Healthcare expertise

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf