How did it all start?
Many will remember how the originally named English Riviera Centre (ERC) came into existence after Torbay Council, working with the Tourism Industry in the late 70s early 80s, saw an opportunity to extend the 10-week holiday season by promoting conferences and events.
At that time, the main venues were the Town Hall, the Princess Theatre and the Festival Theatre. Increasingly these failed to meet the expectations of delegates and conference organisers in comparison with other venues which were being developed, such as Harrogate. So, a working group of leading hoteliers and councillors was formed to explore different options.
The Murrell family, owners of the Rosetor Hotel, generously donated the hotel plot of land to the Council as a potential site for a new centre. This gift is commemorated in the naming of the ground floor meeting rooms as the Grace Murrell Suite.
Module 2 designed the building and project-managed its construction from 1984-87, on the former site of the Rosetor and Roselea hotels which had fallen into disuse in the 70s. The project cost approximately £15m and was partly funded by a European grant of £3m.
When the Centre first opened in 1987, visitors paid at the turnstiles and walked into a hybrid mix of conference auditorium, leisure pool, sports hall, gym, pool room and squash courts.
The Lifestyle Health & Fitness Suite consisted of a 12-station gym with Jacuzzi, steam room, 3 squash courts and just 200 members; today it boasts over 1,000 members!
A mezzanine floor was later introduced to create the Aerobics Studio as part of Lifestyle. The Garden Room Restaurant was reborn as the Bay Brasserie and relocated to the ground floor to create a valuable additional function room – the Rosetor to accommodate a range of events including weddings.We said goodbye to Hayley’s Diner and Neptune’s Galley was created as a family eating area overlooking poolside, but has since given way to becoming a spectators area with the Bay Brasserie being refurbished into the modern Aqua Lounge in 2015.
The name English Riviera Centre was rebranded to the more professional Riviera International Conference Centre (RICC), although locals still fondly refer to the name of ERC and there was even an Octopus mascot called Eric many years ago.
Events that will go down in history
The first major event was the opening weekend Conference and Exhibition in May 1987. This showcased the many activities and businesses of the Bay with a variety of supporting events including a steel band and a visit by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Shortly afterwards, the Centre was host to a major Local Government Conference.
Her Majesty The Queen visited in July 1998 as part of the tercentenary celebrations of the landing of William of Orange at Brixham in 1688; several Prime Ministers and political leaders have visited, including Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy; leading Sports personalities and musicians have also visited including Van Morrison, Aker Bilk, Muse, McFly, Paul Weller and Jools Holland.
The RICC continues to host a variety of events, conferences and functions, bringing tens of thousands of people to the Bay every year.