Facing the Sea of Oman and situated only 4 km from the Muscat International Airport, the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC), is being developed within an integrated convention precinct, supported by four hotels; a five star, a two star and a three star hotel, a shopping mall and a commercial business park, which will include Omantel and Omran headquarters.
It was revealed during a presentation and tour of the work site for media last week that the project is divided into two packages with the construction under way (20 per cent complete) for the exhibition centre, which is being carried out by Carillion Alawi. The exhibition hall will be spread over 22,000 sq m with the space to be divided into five halls of 4,500 sq m each. There is also a provision for parking 4,000 vehicles and its contemporary design will facilitate quick and easy exit from the venue following a big conference with an easy link to the upcoming J W Marriot Hotel.
The halls one and two will have a superior fit out. They offer specialised acoustic treatment, advanced lighting halls and rigging requirements to act as a multi-purpose space for larger plenary sessions, concerts or performances, seating up to 10,000 in a theatre style. The individual halls offer a dedicated registration desk, hospitality suites and separate offices for the orgainsers.
Trevor McCartney, General Manager, OCEC, told the Observer that this project will help Oman improve its brand and promote tourism besides proving opportunities for SMEs in the areas of transportation, services, retail, F&B and transport.
An official of AEG Odgen, appointed to manage OCEC, said that this centre is purpose-built. The unique feature of the expo hall is that it extends from one end to the other for at least 80 metres without pillars. Each hall will have a registration desk and a window to overlook the Sea of Oman.
The exhibition hall is situated at 70 metres above the sea level. The sub-contractor, Bilad Oman, is responsible for the fabrication work being carried out in Sohar and assembled at the work site.
The exhibition hall will be ready by the end of 2016, while the convention centre and other components, including hotels and malls, will be ready in 2017.
It was pointed out that a study was conducted before finalising this master plan, which concluded that the size currently envisaged for OCEC is optimum.
The site engineers pointed out that the land has been earmarked for future expansion.
The OCEC project will have a five star hotel to be operated by J W Marriot and a four star hotel to be managed by IHG Group’s Crowne Plaza. Both these hotels will be opened in 2017 with the financial tender for the Crowne Plaza Hotel floated on June 19 this year.
Following the evaluation, the bid winner is expected to be named in eight weeks. For the J W Marriot, the tender will be floated by early 2015. The Al Futtaim Group will develop Oman’s largest shopping mall, which will house IKEA.
OCEC, when ready, will contribute around RO 200-240 million to Oman’s GDP, according to a study by Booz and Co, on completion, the centre will attract around 600,000 visitors, including over 49,000 from outside Oman.
It is also expected to generate around 18,900 direct jobs, with the two third of these employment generated going to Omanis. Also, around 12,000 workers are expected to be employed during the construction phase, underlining the massive job generation potential of the project.
The site engineers pointed out that the plant will have a centralised district cooling system (12 per cent complete) to provide chilled portable water to all sections. A special corridor (70 per cent) has been developed to lay cables for utility providers, with provisions for future expansion and avoid excavations that may cause inconvenience to OCEC visitors.
A bridge has been constructed across the wadi (around 90 per cent complete) for an easy access to the main conference and convention centre. A primary power sub-station has also been constructed (70 per cent complete), which will be also handed over to Muscat Electricity Distribution Company (MEDC).
There are also plans for one more primary sub-station in the later packages.
Regarding the use of renewable energy sources, the engineers said that while solar heating will be used for all kitchen purposes, use of solar energy has not been found feasible for power generation. “The efficient way is to focus on reducing power consumption through LED lights and proper insulation for air-conditioning.”
The package for auditorium and banquet halls will be awarded by the year-end, with the work to be completed in 2017.
The auditorium, which will have 14 meeting halls, will be customised so that it can be used for both large and small events.
A wadi park has been planned under phase 2 with studies under way for a decision on having a wet wadi round the year or a dry wadi with an attractive landscape.
OCEC offers centre with flexible space and the very latest in communications and audio visual technology — for conferences, exhibition, meeting, weddings and events.
This venue will be among the first to be built to meet the rigorous LEED certification by the US Green Building Council. AEG Ogden’s global venue design team has been involved with the overall internal, operational capabilities and functionality of the OCEC.
The 3,200 tiered lyric-style theatre is set over three levels with advanced projection and riggings, orchestra pit and acoustic systems designed to attract world-class entertainers and performers, while also catering for international congress delegations. This is also supported by another 450 seat tiered auditorium.
Designed to meet the demands of global conference organisers, all 13 meeting rooms are located on the second level, easily accessible from the auditorium and the grand ballroom. It can seat 70-360 delegates in a theatre style with rooms that have natural light and overlook landscaped gardens.
The grand ballroom seats up to 2,300 theatre style, 1,400 classroom style or 1,350 banquet style and can be sub-divided into seven individual rooms using a system of acoustically rated movable walls.
The junior ballroom splits into two equal spaces and caters for up to 1,000 theatre style, 600 classroom style and 570 for a banquet.