National Exhibition Centre

The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is an exhibition centre located in Solihull, England. It is near junction 6 of the M42 motorway, and is adjacent to Birmingham Airport and Birmingham International railway station. It has 20 interconnected halls, set in grounds of 611 acres (2.54 km2) making it the largest exhibition centre in the UK. It is the busiest and seventh-largest exhibition centre in Europe.

National Exhibition Centre
The main entrance to the NEC (July 2015)
LocationNational Exhibition Centre
B40 1NT, West Midlands
Coordinates52°27′12″N 1°43′10″W
OwnerThe Blackstone Group (since 2018)[1]
OperatorNEC Group
Built16 February 1973 to 1976
  • Edward Mills
  • Seymour Harris
Opened2 February 1976 (1976-02-02)
Renovated2009, 2018
Expanded1980, 1989, 1993, 1998
Classroom-style seating
Meeting-room seating
Theatre seating
15,683 (Resorts World Arena)
Enclosed space
  Exhibit hall floor186,000 m2 (2,000,000 sq ft)
Parking16,500 spaces
Public transit accessBirmingham International railway station

Opened by Elizabeth II in February 1976, the first event to be staged at the venue was International Spring Fair, which has returned every year since. Growing annually, the event now occupies all of the NEC's 20 halls and the Resorts World Arena.


The NEC was originally going to be built adjacent to the M1 motorway (junction 21) near Leicester but it was turned down by Leicestershire County Council with claims that "The big shows won't move away from London."[2]

In November 1971, the Secretary of State for the Environment granted outline planning approval for the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. On 16 February 1973, then Prime Minister Edward Heath travelled up from London to cut a white ribbon and initiate its construction.[3] The NEC, originally comprising 89,000 m2 of exhibition space, was opened by the Queen on 2 February 1976. The building was designed by Edward Mills.

Expansion of the complex

The seventh hall of the NEC complex, a multi-purpose indoor arena, opened in December 1980 as Birmingham International Arena (currently named Resorts World Arena).

On 23 March 1989, the Queen opened three further halls, increasing the space to 125,000 m2. Four more halls were added in 1993, the total exhibition space increasing to 158,000 m2. Another four new halls, opened in September 1998 by Neil Kinnock, then European Commissioner for Transport, took the total space to 190,000 m2 (2,045,142 square feet). These buildings were designed by Seymour Harris.

The NEC is nearing completion of a five-year, £40 million venue improvement programme which has seen improvements made to everything from the car parking to signage, seating and catering. The most obvious result of this development has been the redesign of the Piazza – the central space around Halls 1 to 5, which has received a contemporary update.


The NEC was home to the British International Motor Show from 1978 to 2004. It also hosts the Classic Motor Show.

Since 1991, the NEC has been the venue for the international dog show Crufts. Held over four days and using five halls as well as the Resorts World Arena, Crufts attracts an estimated 160,000 visitors annually. The 1991 show was also Crufts centenary year and as part of the celebrations to mark the occasion, the Guinness Book of Records gave official recognition of the event's status as the world's largest dog show, with 22,973 dogs being exhibited that year.

The NEC was the venue for the Iron Maiden live album Maiden England. It's also where the majority of AC/DC's live album Live was recorded in 1991.

Yearly events

Young Driver

Driving for 11- to 16-year-olds with Young Driver happens regularly at weekends in the car parks.[7]

Christmas Party World

In May 2013, The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) announced it would be hosting a series of corporate Christmas parties for the first time.[8] The parties run from 8 to 21 December 2013.[9]

Davis Cup match

It was also the venue for Great Britain's Davis Cup match against Holland in 2007.

Resorts World Arena

The Resorts World Arena (previously The NEC Arena, LG Arena and Genting Arena) is part of the complex.

Car parks

The NEC has 29,000 car parking spaces spread around the site, with a shuttle bus service operating to and from the car parks.

From 1 April 2015 the all-day parking fee for public exhibitions is £12.00,[10] which contributes directly to the upkeep of the car parks, running of the shuttle bus service, maintenance of road surfaces and lighting and staffing of the areas with traffic stewards.

NEC Group

Parent company the NEC Group also owns and operates the Arena Birmingham and ICC Birmingham, both in central Birmingham, and the Resorts World Arena, based on The NEC site.[11] Birmingham City Council placed the NEC Group up for sale in 2014.[12] After short-listing three contenders to purchase the company, the sale to Lloyds Development Capital, the private equity unit of Lloyds Banking Group, was completed in January 2015 for £307 million.[13] In October 2018, Blackstone acquired NEC Group from Lloyds Development Capital,[1] paying around £800 million pounds for the group.[14]


  1. Rachel Dunachie (12 October 2018). "Blackstone acquires the NEC Group". (Press release). Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  2. Brown, Graeme (16 January 2015). "Ten top facts about the NEC". birminghammail. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  3. "Assessing the future: your qualification, our regulation". GOV.UK. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  4. "The Education Show - NEC Birmingham, 16-18 March 2017 - The recognised education & learning community platform across the UK".
  5. "Makers Central". National Exhibition Centre. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  6. "Warley Exhibition Home".
  7. "Young Driver - Junior driving lessons for under 17s / teenagers".
  8. The NEC and Vivid Experience to launch the UK's largest Christmas party venue
  9. "Amazing Christmas Parties in Birmingham". Birmingham Christmas Parties.
  10. "Car Parking".
  11. Griffin, Jon (14 January 2015). "NEC Group Set to Be Sold for Price Tag Up to PS300m". Birmingham Mail  via HighBeam (subscription required) . Archived from the original on 31 March 2017. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  12. Morris, Steven (5 March 2014). "Birmingham city council to sell National Exhibition Centre". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  13. "NEC group sold off in £307m deal". BBC News. 16 January 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  14. "NEC Group sold 'for £800m'". BBC News. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
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