One year after fire, SkyCity opens new $6m Flare in Auckland casino

A year after the fire broke out at the $750 million NZ International Convention Centre, SkyCity Entertainment Group has unveiled a new $6m bar called Flare.

The refurbished area on the main level-two casino gaming floor in Auckland was given the name because it “represents a sudden burst of bright light reflecting a new location”, the business said.

On October 22 last year, a fire broke out at the NZICC around 1pm. That then burned for 10 days and involved hundreds of Fire and Emergency staff and crews.

The country’s biggest building repair is now under way after that fire caused $336m-plus of damage.

The repairs are being fully funded by insurers, SkyCity says, and head contractor Fletcher Construction has been working on the cleanup throughout this year.

Michael Ahearne, SkyCity chief operating officer, showed off the new Flare bar, directly across Hobson St from that fire-hit NZICC, windows looking from one venue to the other.

Flare was an expansion of the former bar and in the same place on the western side of the gaming area, he said. But the previous 160sq m Ace’s Bar had now become a 648sq m area as Flare, he said.

A cocktail bar, a rotational themed drinks area now selling only Verve Cliquot and live entertainment venue above Hobson St were all designed by Moller Architects.

“Flare will have a broad range of live music including acoustic/solo pop, soul, funk, jazz and R n B from Wednesday to Sunday nights,” Ahearne said.

Every Wednesday night will be dedicated to new talent when emerging artists from Auckland University and the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand, Ahearne said.

Screens are also installed to turn part of the bar into a sports area when major events are on.

“It will be a multi-purpose venue but music will be the key feature,” Ahearne said.

Construction work on the new area started in April, when the casino was shut because of Covid lockdowns, Ahearne said.

SkyCity will hold a Flare launch event at the end of this month.

By the first week in December, Ahearne said new venues Weta Workshop and The All Blacks’ Experience would also open across Federal St.

Work on those two new venues, where SkyCity once operated convention and meeting space, is nearing completion.

Also towards the end of this month, SkyCity will open a new $5m three-restaurant food court on the level-two main casino floor. Indian, Asian and European styles of food will be available at counter service areas, it said.

Wood overlay floors and a natural wood ceiling are features of that refurbished area. Windows look down on to Federal St and Ahearne said the food court would have more natural light than other areas.

Those new venues are in addition to the new VIP areas Black and Eight which SkyCity opened recently and where around $30m was spent.

All up, SkyCity has spent $50m on the Auckland property which, Ahearne said, made the premises fit for purpose, drew new clients, added to existing amenities and was an upgrade.

This weekend, Fletcher Construction will erect Goliath, a glass and steel airbridge which will for the first time provide a pedestrian link between the main casino/SkyCity Hotel building and the under-repair NZICC.

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