The congress centre. / sur

6 May 1999: Key vote enables funding of Malaga's new congress centre

The construction of the exhibition centre allowed Malaga to host trade fairs and events, expanding the city's international reach

LILY FARRANT

On 6 May 1999, at a meeting of Malaga city hall's Commission of Economy and Finances, the vote was passed in favour of constructing the Palacio de Ferias y Congresos de Málaga (FYCMA), Malaga's main exhibition and conference centre which has become one of the city's key assets. The vote enabled the project to receive 800 million pesetas (nearly five million euros) in funding from the European Union, an essential subsidy within the initial 2.8- billion-peseta budget (17.3 million euros).

A wide variety of events have been hosted at the FYCMA in the 23 years since its construction, ranging from motorbike shows to the 24th Innovation and Tourism Fair in February 2022, which united over 250 European companies, and played an integral role in boosting Malaga's reputation as a technology hub.

The centre also served as a Covid-19 vaccination centre in 2021, and in April opened a reception and assistance centre for Ukrainian refugees.

Celia Villalobos, the mayor of Malaga at the time, was worried about losing the funding from the European Union after the opposition, made up of the left-wing IU, Socialist PSOE and Grupo Mixto, initially withheld their vote of support for the project. However, eventually the PSOE and Grupo Mixto backed the PP-run local government, giving the plan the go-ahead.

Despite its high cost, Villalobos was adamant for the project to go ahead, given that it would bring Malaga city into the network of trade fairs and other important events, boosting the city's reputation and economy.

Francisco de la Torre, today's mayor but then the mayor's first deputy and Urban Planning councillor, said that with the funding, construction could begin that same year.

The centre was inaugurated in 2003 after its final cost had more than doubled the initial budget. Covering an area of 60,000 square metres, the centre includes 19,500 square metres of exhibition space, with a visitor capacity of 20,000. It also boasts an auditorium and function rooms.