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Summary Article: Millennium Dome from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Purpose-built structure in London, England, designed as the centrepiece for UK celebrations of the year 2000. Located on a 73-ha/181-acre site in the borough of Greenwich, the Dome is 320 m/1,050 ft in diameter, 1 km/0.6 mi in circumference, 50 m/164 ft in height, and covers an area of 80,425 sq m/865,687 sq ft. It can hold 37,000 people, and was the central venue on 31 December 1999 for London's official millennium celebrations, and remained open to the public throughout 2000. Costing over £700 million to build, the increasing use of public money to bail out the project made it controversial. Expected to attract 12 million paying visitors during the year, the Dome attracted only around 4 million, and when it closed on 1 January 2001, it was technically insolvent.

Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, the Dome is twice as big as the world's former largest dome, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The dome canopy is made of panels of teflon-coated glass fibre, supported by 12 steel masts each 100 m/328 ft long. The building was divided into 14 zones and 6 performance areas, and exhibitions in the zones explored such issues as technology, the environment, religion, and multiculturalism. Entitled Work, Learning, Money, Body, Play, Journey, Shared Ground, Living Island, Home Planet, Talk, Faith, Rest, Mind, and Self-Portrait, the zones aimed to combine education with entertainment. The performance areas featured the millennium show, interactive theatre, street performers, and a cinema. The building and the exhibitions were run by the New Millennium Experience Company, which was wholly owned by the UK government.

Financial difficulties The opening night was marred by transport and technical problems. Poor publicity about its attractions, poor ticket sales, and inadequate sponsorship funding forced the Dome to turn to the National Lottery's Millennium Commission and the government for a series of emergency cash injections, pushing its final total cost towards £1 billion. At the end of the year much of its contents were sold in auction, while the government undertook to try to sell it to property consortia. However, a series of bids fell through, and the disused Dome continued to cost around £600,000 a month in maintenance.

Management of the project Although the Dome was initially conceived in 1992 under the Conservative government of John Major, it received the support of the incoming Labour administration from May 1997. Minister without Portfolio Peter Mandelson was initially in charge of the project, and succeeded by Lord Falconer in 1998. The New Millennium Experience Company was headed by chief executive Jennie Page until late February 2000, when she was replaced by Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, vice-president of park operations at Disneyland Paris theme park since January 1999. Gerbeau brought a customer focus that helped improve visitor numbers. Nevertheless, the average public subsidy for each visitor to the Dome during 2000 was around £140.

The site and transport The Greenwich Peninsula site is on waste land, a former gasworks, in a bend of the River Thames. Work began on cleaning up the site in July 1996 and construction started on 23 June 1997. Access to the site included a new Underground station (the largest in Europe) at North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line, river boats to and from central London, and Greenwich park and ride (and ‘sail and ride’) facilities.

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