Nearly 16,000 people stepped foot inside the beautifully-restored Spanish City over the weekend.
North Tyneside Council opened the doors to the iconic building to allow the public to have a look around the iconic building before it opened for business today (Monday 23 July).
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn CBE first unveiled a plaque inside the building and then cut a ribbon at the main entrance to officially declare Spanish City open and the first guests were welcomed in.
She said: “It was truly amazing to see so many people come along and join our celebrations to mark such an historic occasion.
“I know how much this building means to residents and I want to thank everyone for their patience because nobody knows more than me how long we’ve waited for it.
“This is something the people of Whitley Bay and North Tyneside all deserve – a high quality venue that we can be proud of and is completely unique.
“It has been a pleasure to see residents finally getting the chance to step back inside the Spanish City after all these years and to see their faces light up when they walk in. The one word we’ve been hearing a lot over the weekend is ‘wow’!”
The first two people to step foot inside when the doors opened were Vivien Riddell and John Parrack.
Afterwards Vivien said: “I’ve not been lucky enough to be one of the ones who’ve got in before and didn’t expect to be first in the queue so it was really exciting.
“The building is amazing, stunning, and absolutely beautiful – I loved all the different areas and the wedding suite is to die for – but mainly it’s to see that the old parts of it are still there but have been refurbished and brightened up so it’s just amazing.”
John added: “The centrepiece is just amazing, really fantastic. They’ve really worked hard on it.”
The council invested £4m in the restoration project and also secured grants of £3.47m from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and more than £2m from the Coastal Communities Fund.
Lucy Winskell, North East Committee Chair, HLF, said: “The word iconic when describing buildings is overused, but for Spanish City I think we will be using the word iconic a lot. You just need to look around to see how wonderful this building and its restoration provides a fantastic opportunity for the community here in Whitley Bay and beyond.
“It’s part of regeneration, part of sustainability, it’s part of bringing old buildings back to life for the benefit of the community, and the Heritage Lottery Fund, using money from the National Lottery, is delighted to have been able to assist.”
Patrick Melia, North Tyneside Council Chief Executive, said: “It has been a long journey for the council and partners involved in the process but the reaction has been fantastic – we have delivered what we set out to do.”
Martin Kay visited with his family and friends who came over from Holland. He said: “The quality and attention to detail will certainly enhance the seafront – our friends from Holland have already booked flights to return and sample the restaurants in October.”
Spanish City, which is operated by Kymel Trading, is now open for business – more information is available at www.spanishcity.co.uk
The council’s restoration project was carried out in partnership with contractors Robertson Construction and appointed designers ADP.