*New Look Dome Worth The Wait-Okonkwo
By Kemi Yesufu
All eyes are on Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, the wealthy investor best known as the man behind The Dome Abuja, arguably, Nigeria’s biggest entertainment centre . And this is because the topnotch celebrity hangout is ready to re-open its doors.
Located in Abuja’s prime location, near the World Trade Center , The Dome now comprises of the Summit Bar and Restaurant, the Wesley Snipes Lounge, The Satchmo Cigar Lounge. Retaining its family oriented culture, the new look, Dome Abuja returns with the Noni’s Pizzeria, Camelot Spa and Gym, a bowling alley and newly introduced, Francis Boutique hotel.
Despite the talk from Abuja’s sybarites around the re-launch of The Dome and the huge investments that has been made to make an impression, Okonkwo, didn’t seem under pressure when he spoke with journalists recently.
Okonkwo, who blazed the trail in investing heavily in tourism and entertainment, years before the frequent calls for significant investment into the non-oil sector told reporters, the new look Dome is worth the wait. He also opined that the multi-purpose centre will quickly retake its position as the right place to visit for the VVIP treatment.
“What makes the new facility unique is, as you can see, it is not just the contemporary architecture you see around. We also have a new and improved organisation which is left in the hands of competent and trustworthy managerial team”, he said.
“The Dome itself is a brand, it’s a destination . It’s not a one- stand activity. We’re not a night club…it’s a place you go and see a whole lot of things under one roof. Before now, we had the night club, we had the bowling alley, which as we speak today is the only 10- pin bowling center in the whole nation. We have the fitness, we have the outdoor, so it’s not like a one- spot place. Now it’s even bigger and better.
“In those days, it’s (The Dome) was something that was conceptualised with a youthful spirit. “Now a lot of years have gone by and most of the activities are not high- octane activities, there not like clubbing, clubbing, but it still a good ambience for good lounging, bar and most importantly, we have a good kitchen and we can have cuisines from all over the world.
“The way it is now, The Dome now stands as the destination for hospitality and recreation. It’s a destination where your family, friends can host corporate events, with gym, accommodation, dining, dancing and all sorts”, Okonkwo added.
The man behind The Dome also explained why it took a long time to return the centre back to business. He said: “Just as you may be aware, entertainment and hospitality are sectors that have a life. At one time it’s bubbling, at other times, it need to take a break to rejuvenate.
“Some of these sometimes may be for strategic reasons. So, in this case at some point, it was very difficult for Dome to function because of a whole lot of community development going on around us. The road network , the constructions, access became almost impossible .
“Some of the construction were actually getting close to the Dome and it was negotiated that we just had to give them a little break- a short time to finish. So, six months went into one year and one year went into two years. And we had operated for 10 years.
According to Okonkwo the closure of The Dome gave his team ample time to re-strategise. “We felt it was also a good time to go back to the drawing board and then come up with something new that will also be a reflection of our new vision for the industry in like 10 years to come. If you recall, we came 10 years ago, we had to set the agenda for 10 years to come. So, it’s a combination of these factors that actually made us to the drawing board.
“We closed down, went into a lot of work. Obviously by our own initial design and plan, we would have been up about now and functioning fully. But for some, other reasons, the economy has its own toll. Then other logistics.
“But the good news is that we are coming to the end of that and the Dome will soon be fully back with a whole lot more activities”, he said.
Okonkwo has been in the news over his interest to be in the Senate. But in response to a question on his plans for 2019, he insisted that what’s uppermost on his mind is taking The Dome back to the pinnacle of entertainment in the country.
“With what you’ve seen, I’m sure you have an answer to it because politics has nothing to do with what’s on ground. What we have is a well- planned, well- tailored programme of reconstruction and re- engineering. So, we’re working according to our plan and politics has nothing to do with it”.