Hot seat: Raymond Gaspar

When we heard about a Dubai entertainment venue that could change shape and amenities at the flick of a switch, our ears pricked up. So we asked Raymond Gaspar, the building’s manager, to give us the scoop.

Hot seat, The Knowledge

You boldly state that this will be the ‘first venue of its kind in the Middle East.’ How so?
It’s the first to have multi-purpose functions and such flexibility. It is at once a theatre – with a flying system, backstage green room and changing rooms – but with the press of a button the seating retracts and it becomes an open space to host banquets and put on exhibitions and sports like boxing.

All at the press of a button?
Almost, yes.

Is it going to attract a new set of performers to those that already frequent Dubai?
We have interest from international promoters about bringing Broadway musicals here. We’re also planning to host a circus, ballet, opera and children’s shows, all during 2009. We have space for a performing arts centre as well, so we are hoping there will be of dance and music lessons within the building. We will definitely encourage local talent to learn here and become part of the shows as well.

Which big headliners have you already lined up?
One is already announced – Sting [on Strings. Genius!] on December 12. So that will be after the top-secret grand opening. We expect the venue to open in November. But we don’t want to give a definite date as we are planning a dry run to test the building and avoid future problems.

Are Maroon 5 set to play, as rumoured?
It is a rumour that has not been officially announced. I cannot say yes, I cannot say no [laughs].

What’s its capacity?
Standing is 7,000; seated 3,000.

What else is groundbreaking about the place?
This building is unparalleled. We tried to find a similar building with the same capacity and flexibility somewhere else in the world, but we couldn’t. It has so many uses – seminars, meetings, corporate hospitality. It’s not just one auditorium.

How many events will be corporate and how many public?
It’s a mix. The biggest usage will be for entertainment, followed by corporate.

What do the VVIPs get? What kind of access?
The VIP boxes will be split over two levels: VIP first, and then higher ‘sky boxes’ for VVIPs. They are well located, a distance from the stage, but with excellent visibility. Each will have its own butler, pantry and acoustic enhancement.

You mention a world-class team of chefs. Does this include any celebrities?
They will be involved in the design of the menus. From time to time high-class chefs will come over for events. But I’d rather not say who. It’s an operation that involves another party and we will announce who it is in the near future.

Dubai venues are notorious for inefficiency when it comes to ticketing. How will The Palladium avoid this?
We have designed accesses for different categories and included many exits and entrances. The box office will be operated under international standards. As for food and drink – to avoid long queues we’re introducing a card system, which people can purchase ahead of the show and replenish with one swipe. We are trying to make everything as easy as possible.

What about ingoing and outgoing traffic?
We have employed an award-winning consultant from the UK to help us study the traffic control of pedestrians and cars. I can’t say there won’t be traffic, but it shouldn’t reach distressing levels.

What is so special about the visuals?
We have LED lighting, which is part of our efforts to turn the building green. By putting LED lighting in the ceiling we consume less electricity and power. Plus it can change the colours and therefore mood as much as we like.

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