Ministry of Sound to host Dome's swansong

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The Independent Online

The Millennium Dome is to end its troubled year with a 12-hour New Year's Eve rave for 16,000 people, organised by the Ministry of Sound.

The Millennium Dome is to end its troubled year with a 12-hour New Year's Eve rave for 16,000 people, organised by the Ministry of Sound.

The event, at £35 a ticket, will be held in several buildings outside the Dome when the attraction closes its doors to the public - without ceremony - after the last performance of its floorshow finishes at about 7pm on 31 December.

The closure will be in stark contrast to the lavish opening party attended by the Queen and 10,500 guests, which featured performances by Mick Hucknall and the Corrs and an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.

Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, chief executive of the New Millennium Experience Company (MMEC) the Dome's operator, denied that handing over the facilities for free was a lost opportunity to make money or an embarrassing finale.

He said it was a "fantastic" way to mark the Dome's last day. Having another event for VIPs would be "the wrong thing to do".

"A few people around this project wanted us to go quietly and slowly... and just switch off the lights at 6pm. I wanted to go with a big bang," he said.

Using the Dome itself was rejected because that would involve closing the central arena to the public for several days. The NMEC accepted the deal because it involved no financial risk or costs.

The Skyscape "mini-dome" building and other nearby buildings will be taken over by Ministry of Sound. It will spend £500,000 installing sound and lighting on four stages, giving the NMEC a share of the profits from food and merchandise.

Mr Gerbeau admitted he had to overcome reservations from David James, the corporate troubleshooter brought in as the NMEC's executive chairman, and Lord Falconer, the "minister for the Dome".

They feared the idea was risky. He said he still expected to be attacked by the Tories for supporting the proposal, and accused William Hague, in particular, of deliberately exploiting the Dome's troubles to attack the Government.

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