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Once Argos had vacated and the transformation had been complete, the building opened as the curious Museum of Museums exhibiting Tutankhamun's Treasures. Then, some months later, it was announced the building would be re branded as EventCity and become a mainstream convention and conference venue. Eyebrows were raised across Manchester. What was Peel up to?

Peel's critics have suggested it may have all been a ploy to get around planning regulations. That's something Mr Orr robustly denies.

"Everybody had an opportunity if they wanted to object. We didn't receive any objections whatsoever.

Outside London, it is second only to Birmingham's NEC in terms of size. And despite having only been open for just over a year, it's starting to attract some of the biggest events on the circuit. Andy Orr, the managing director, shows Business Week around Women Air Presto the venue, wholly owned by property giant Peel Holdings.

Now EventCity is up and running Peel are determined to make it succeed. Mr Orr, 47, heads a team of nine full time staff.

Added to that is easy access from the motorways, thousands of free parking spaces, and the lure of the Trafford Centre.

The space is huge 36,000 square metres to be precise. The building, located next to Barton Square at the Trafford Centre, was once a tobacco factory and then a distribution warehouse for Argos.

"As we progressed and realised we wanted to move stronger into the exhibition industry, we felt the brand EventCity encapsulated what we are about. So we went with that name in April last year."

"Over the last 15 years, the exhibition industry particularly consumer and trade has been in London and Birmingham. Our intention is to very much re establish Manchester as a viable city in that market," he says.

Peel set to work. It painstakingly converted the building from a distribution centre into a convention centre. But here's where our story gets a little complicated.

Surely that was the intention all along?

In fact, you could probably fit several jets inside, although the closest they've come so far is a few model steam engines. Standing amid this vast space, one wonders how this industrial building has been turned into a convention centre, and more pertinently why? Mr Orr has the answers.

"Initially we didn't want to jump in and spend millions of pounds refurbishing the building and finding the market doesn't exist. We were quite cautious in terms of marketing the venue and going out into the market place. We wanted to take our time."

"When it was originally built in 1995, it was owned by Manchester Tobacco," he explains. "Peel subsequently acquired the building from them and leased it to Argos.

Some observers expressed surprise at how all this came about.

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The answer appears to be creating the biggest exhibition space in the north, in the heart of their empire on the Manchester Ship Canal.

´╗┐The former tobacco factory is now a breath of fresh air

The space at EventCity is aircraft hangar huge.

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The plan is to sell EventCity as part of an attractive package that includes the area's other facilities.

Last year, EventCity had an estimated 2.5m turnover. A plan to grow revenues is in place. Orr describes it as a five year project.

Was it some sort of Machiavellian plot? Not according to Mr Orr.

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"Planning consent is there and we feel we acted in a proper manner."

"People who went to the Caravan Show went to the Trafford Centre to get a coffee or do some shopping. Retailers there reported a fantastic weekend when the Caravan Show was on," he says. "Likewise we get passing footfall from the Trafford Centre and we can market ourselves through them. It's just a great synergy that seems to be working."

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Slowly, and perhaps surprisingly, it's been transformed into a giant, all purpose venue for events of every kind. In the last year it has hosted X Factor auditions, the Caravan Show, a tattoo convention and a string of Christmas parties. It's certainly shaken up the exhibition world.

And, of course, it is neighbouring the Trafford Centre, once Peel's prized asset but now owned by Capital Shopping Centres, a firm Peel founder John Whittaker is deputy chairman of and owns a significant stake in.

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not least its size.

"The first show was Tutankhamun's Treasures. It was by a German company and new to the British market. It wanted it to be associated with somewhere with museum in the title. So we went with the Museum of Museums brand.

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"We were in constant contact with Trafford council. We went through the planning applications correctly.

to EventCity. The exhibition and convention centre looks big from the outside but even bigger once you're inside.

"Two years ago, when the lease ended, Peel decided to look at the use of the building and how it could fit in with the surrounding attractions the Trafford Centre, the Chill Factore, the golf driving range. We felt that an exhibition space would bring a new dynamic to the area and fit in with the other Air Presto Ultra Flyknit Fit

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