By Jide Taiwo
Oh to be a fly in the accountant’s office at Eko Hotel and Suites! Now that the concert/award season is over, it would be interesting to see the balance sheet of the 40-year-old hotel. At 20 million per event, a quick math will show that this December alone, a cool one hundred million naira would have entered the coffers of the organization, courtesy of the much talked about (and much overused) Convention Centre.
There is hardly a more popular site for entertainment events in Nigeria. Sure there’s the newer Landmark Centre just across the Kuramo Lake but it doesn’t possess the IT factor that Eko Hotel does. From political meets to wedding receptions, the Covention Centre is the choice of many an organizer. Even churches don’t mind using it along with the unabashed overindulgence of secular concerts that hold there multiple times a year.
So the show promoters come bearing cheques and bank drafts, to enter their names on the Eko Hotel register. If you’re that promoter willing to recoup monies spent by selling overpriced tables at your event; then you may not mind very much. But for everyone else, there’s no other way to say it: Eko Hotel is useless as a concert hall.
With its breathtaking plafond that looks great when properly lit when the sound system that sounds just as great because it’s an enclosed space, it’s not hard to see why 6,000 capacity Eko Hotel Convention Centre is popular among show promoters.
But that’s where the pros end; it’s all cons from here. The layout of the complex is such that while the Convention Centre is great for wedding parties and conventions (isn’t that what the name is?), it’s not such a smart idea for a concert that is designed to attract thousands of people.
As a guest at the hotel, the last scenery you would want to see from your third, fourth or whatever floor you’re on- is a sea of heads bobbling beneath. If you had to come down to the lobby during a show, the swarm of people milling about would overwhelm you. Personally, I would be pissed. But then I am one man, so maybe the Eko Hotel regulars would be more forgiving than I seem to me.
From a fan standpoint however, it bodes no good. Fewer things in life are more stressful than getting access to Eko Hotel Convention Centre when there’s a show. For one the parking lot which is miles (obviously this is an exaggeration but still…) away from the hall and it takes a fair bit of persistence to travel from your vehicle to where the show is about to take place. Worse still, there’s only one entrance and exit so whenever a concert is holding, you can be sure of a traffic jam along the entire stretch of Adetokunbo Ademola Street, creating a nuisance for other citizens who do not necessarily care about your favourite artiste ‘shutting down’ Eko Hotel.
But all that still pales in comparison to the actual hall in which the concerts take place. The hotel might have only one gate but the Convention Centre has at least several routes. If show promoters are being honest, they’ll tell you it’s a logistical nightmare. The VIP entrance is usually sited at the entrance near the newly built Eko Signature wing while lesser mortals have to scurry over to the main lobby where their regular entrance is located. At Rhythm Unplugged, attendees had to travel several yards to get their tagged accredited under a stairwell and then had to make their way up three flights of stairs to get into the hall. The Headies had four red carpets spread in different directions. Even celebrities were at a loss on which one is best suited for them to strut and strike a pose. What usually then happens is that the show starts while red carpet is still ongoing. The most ironic fact is that all of these entrances lead to only TWO doors. Two.
There is no proper green room for artistes to chill; all there is a makeshift shed- covered by a tarpaulin banner advertising the show- behind the stage with a couple of bouncers to avert preying eyes.
Perhaps the worst of them is the lack of adequate security measures. Touch on wood, in the event of a fire or stampede, all six thousand people have to be evacuated only through those two doors.
In other places in the world, concerts are held at purpose built centres, not at appendages of fancy hotels. For certain artistes, Eko Hotel is way too small for their fanbase. By now some of them should be selling out stadiums but they’re being cowardly. (That’s a story for another day). Even on New Year’s Eve, the congregation of This Present House that was dispersing after their service created a bottleneck at the exit.
In the aftermath of Olamide‘s commercially successful but logistically disastrous OLIC3, I was reading up on P Diddy’s early foray into show promoting. In 1991 he had a celebrity basketball game that was sold out. It only took a unruly fans before a stampede happened. Nine people died that day.
God forbid that it happens at Eko Hotel. But with the wild success of our artistes (which we are thankful for), it has become quite obvious that Eko Hotel simply was not built for things like this.
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