Sandy Park's success over the past 12 months has been duly recognised after they were among the main award winners at the 2016 Expess & Echo Business Awards.
The region's premier conference and banqueting centre picked up the prestigious Tourism & Hospitality Business of the Year prize in front of over 300 guests.
For the sixth year in a row, the black tie event - which was held at Sandy Park itself - showcased the talent, dedication and innovation of staff and organisations from across Exeter and the surrounding area in a variety of sectors.
Guests on the night enjoyed an opportunity to not only network, but also got to hear of the inspirational success stories of leading Devon companies and entrepreneurs.
Up against Hampton by Hilton Exeter, Ladram Bay Holiday Park and the Mountlands Language School, judges were clearly impressed by the all-round achievements sustained by Sandy Park during the last year.
In what was hugely successful year at Sandy Park, the popular venue was put on the global stage in 2015 when the stadium hosted three Rugby World Cup matches.
A report to Exeter City Council stated that more than 34 million people saw television and other media and press coverage of the city’s involvement in the games, amounting to an equivalent of £1.5 million worth of advertising.
More than 36,000 people watched the sell-out games at Sandy Park, some travelling from as far as South America, Africa, the Middle East, USA and Canada.
The past year also saw Exeter Rugby Club record its best-ever financial results. Off the field, the Sandy Park side of the business grew year-on-year by 16 per cent, despite the facility being shut for a £10m redevelopment for ten weeks.
More than £250,000 was also spent upgrading the stadium for match days, including improving food and bar outlets, while the Christmas period saw over 30 per cent more bookings than in 2014.
Delighted Natasha Pavis, Sandy Park General Manager, said: "Naturally, we are delighted to have picked up this award as it is recognition for what has been a hugely successful 12 months for us.
"At times it's not been easy, particularly as we underwent a multi-million redevelopment of our facilities, but the team here have worked above and beyond to produce outstanding results in everything that we do.
"For sure having the larger conferencing space is attracting more exhibitions and trade shows, but our exposure through the Exeter Chiefs and also the Rugby World Cup has also been huge and has helped showcase our venue to a much wider audience."
The awards evening itself began with a drinks reception sponsored by Walter H Squires & Son, followed by a three-course dinner. The awards ceremony was co-hosted by BBC broadcaster Judi Spiers and Echo editor Patrick Phelvin.
Brian Lodge, managing director of headline sponsors South West Communications Group, said: “Very much like our own company, we have seen the city grow to become the prosperous and dynamic business hub of the South West. We sponsored this event in its inaugural year and we are back this year and for the next two years because we feel we should recognise the support the Express & Echo gives to local businesses.
"Our city and surrounding area is full of exciting and innovative companies, from small start-ups to well established national players. These are our local employers and are the driving force behind the economy of the South West. We’re looking forward to celebrating their success on what I’m sure will be a great evening here at Sandy Park. I feel honoured to be here in such illustrious company.
“This is a truly great venue and this evening is all about celebrating Exeter and East Devon businesses. It’s my belief that these awards are not just recognising the best businesses in Exeter and East Devon, or indeed the South West. I think the businesses here tonight are really some of the best in the UK.
“Now we’re in the time when connectivity is the key and business is more about your internet speed than your premises in some instances, so as long as you’re connected you can live and work anywhere, so why would you not work here? Tonight there are no losers – everyone here is a winner, not least because you have chosen to live in the best place in the UK to live and work.”
The headline sponsor of the year’s awards were South West Communications Group, while event and category sponsors included Exeter City Council, Pavey Group, Everys, Exeter Chamber of Commerce, Kitsons, Exeter College, Devon County Council, Great Western Railway and the Virtual Jet Centre.