MetroCentre is a shopping centre in the United Kingdom. It holds the title of largest shopping centre in the European Union. Located in Gateshead on a former industrial site, close to the River Tyne, MetroCentre opened on 14 October 1986 and has around 342 shops occupying 168,900 m2 (1.818 million square feet) of retail floor space. Additional retail space is available in the adjoining retail park which houses larger shops.
The MetroCentre has four malls; red, green, blue and yellow. It also has themed shopping areas; The Village, formerly known as the Antiques Village, The Forum, and The Studio, formerly known as the Mediterranean Village, and houses many restaurants and cafes. The first mall of the MetroCentre was built in 1986 - the red mall. At the time it featured a large Carrefour store, which later became Gateway and subsequently Asda. In the 1990s, Asda moved from the MetroCentre to a larger stand-alone store nearby, facilitating the redevelopment of the Red Mall.
MetroCentre's construction was financed by the Church of England Commissioners, and was masterminded by Sir John Hall's company, Cameron Hall Developments, the ground upon which it is built was purchased for a mere £100,000 in the early '70s. In October 1995, the centre was sold to Capital Shopping Centres for £364m, although the Church Commissioners retained a 10% stake.
Reflecting its Church of England origins, the MetroCentre is one of the few European shopping centres to have its own chapel and resident full-time chaplain. Services are held on Sunday afternoons, with special services on occasions such as Mothering Sunday and Remembrance Sunday.
Blue Mall, Green Mall,Central Quadrant, Red Mall, Yellow Mall,
ASDA's move out of the main centre was planned so that the unit could be demolished to make way for an extension and refurbishment of the Red Mall. The new Red Mall extension (including a number of new shops, such as a Debenhams department store) opened on 6 October 2004. A consequence of the expansion was that Metrocentre regained the crown of Europe's largest shopping centre that it had lost to Bluewater in 1999. However a year later, with the opening of the Cevahir Mall in Istanbul, Turkey, the MetroCentre was moved down to being the largest shopping centre within the European Union.
The refurbishment programme also included a new Transport Interchange at the end of the Blue Mall. It replaced the old bus station and is intended to provide improved bus links to many parts of North East England, and accommodate coach services from elsewhere in the UK. The new interchange features electronic display boards and a new waiting room at the MetroCentre railway station. The MetroCentre is not directly connected to the Tyne & Wear Metro System though regular bus shuttle services provide connections to Monument, Central Station, and Gateshead Metro stations. The main line rail link also provides direct access to neighbouring Newcastle upon Tyne city centre. (see Transport Links below).
On 30 November 2006, centre owner Capital Shopping Centres announced plans to redevelop the centre's Yellow Mall. The Metroland indoor funfair closed in 2008 and the area has been reconstructed to become the "MetroCentre Qube". With the first phase completed, the Qube contains branches of YO! Sushi and Pizza Express. A new Odeon cinema(relocated from the Blue Mall)opened in December 2009 and includes 12 digital screens including a 3D screen and an IMAX Digital, the first in the north east of England. The NAMCO FUN SCAPE is a family entertainment centre (including a new ten-pin bowling alley) and an assortment of restaurants including Nando's. The Qube exterior is made from clad zinc and glass to distinguish it as the entertainment part of the centre.
Many large retail chains are represented in the centre, such as British Home Stores, Marks & Spencer (their first out of town store), House of Fraser, Debenhams, NEXT, Topshop/Topman, H&M, River Island, Argos, HMV, W H Smith, Jessops, Boots, Carphone Warehouse, Modelzone and Lush. There are also numerous places to eat and drink, with a recently redeveloped area containing bars and restaurants providing an alternative to the McDonald's, Pizza Hut , KFC , Burger King and Wetherspoons elsewhere in the centre.
Until its closure on 20 April 2008, the MetroCentre featured an entirely enclosed theme park called Metroland. Renamed The New Metroland following a refurbishment by operators Arlington Leisure in 1996, it was Europe's largest indoor amusement park. Metroland opened in February 1988 at a cost of £20 million. The park featured a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, pirate ship and dodgem cars among its rides. Its closure made way for redevelopment of the Yellow Quadrant and to allow expansion of the Odeon cinema, which already had a cinema in the Blue Mall. On the final weekend of operation (19 & 20 April 2008) the park held the 'Last Ride weekend' where the admission price was £5 for the whole day with unlimited access to all the rides. The park eventually closed at 8:00pm on Sunday 20 April, despite strong local opposition and petitions raising around 4,000 signatures against the closure. Proceeds from the last night of operation went to charity. The closure meant the loss of 120 jobs.
In addition to the former Metroland, the centre's leisure facilities now (as of Late 2009) include a 12 screen Odeon cinema, with VIP lounge and an Imax screen, and the Namco Funscape, which is an indoor amusement arcarde including a dodgem ride and 18 lane 10-pin bowling alley.
The Metro Retail Park is situated to the west of the MetroCentre. It has the layout of a conventional out of town retail park, with large stores such as Barker and Stonehouse, Toys R Us and Pets at Home. McDonald's and Pizza Hut are both situated to the south of the Retail Park site (in addition to other sites for both restaurants in the MetroCentre itself). To the North of the retail park there is Gala Bingo. Until August 2007 the retail park was not actually under the ownership of MetroCentre Partnership; it was purchased for £82.5 million.
West of the Metro Retail Park is an area often referred to as "MetroPark West". This area is not owned or controlled by the MetroCentre. Stores trading in this area include the ASDA Supercentre, IKEA, DFS and Bensons For Beds
Allison Court is to the South of the MetroCentre and Metro Retail Park, next to the A1. Situated here are stores such as Maplin, The Bed Shed and a bank (Beneficial Finance).
The area is well served by hotels. Between Allison Court and the Metro Retail Park is the Marriott. Near "MetroPark West" is the Holiday Inn Express and Travelodge, and in Derwenthaugh to the west is Premier Inn, also a Taybarns restaurant.
The MetroCentre's transport interchange has a large bus to the Tyne and Wear Metro. It is connected to Gateshead metro station by the X66 bus service and to Newcastle Central metro station by the heavy rail services to Newcastle railway station.
Major bus links include:
MetroCentre railway station is on the Tyne Valley Line, which provides regular services to Newcastle Central station, Sunderland Central, Carlisle, Middlesbrough and Northumberland, with a twice daily service to Stranraer in south west Scotland, via Dumfries.
The MetroCentre has its own junction on the A1 road and northbound this road was widened to three lanes after the MetroCentre was built to cope with increased traffic levels. Even so the centre is responsible for many journeys onto the A1, a road which through Gateshead suffers from significant congestion at peak times.
National and international visitors can reach the centre via air using Newcastle Airport. Alternatively, it is possible to travel by ferry to North Shields from Scandinavia and the Netherlands.