The wait is finally over...
Tonight sees the biggest entertainment bonanza in Blackpool for decades.
More than 20,000 fans will pack into Blackpool FC’s Bloomfield Road ground to see rock legend Rod Stewart’s first performance in the resort for 40 years.
And at the same time, just over a mile away, thousands will be in attendance as West End hit Mamma Mia starts its spectacular 12-week run at the Opera House.
And community leaders across the town are thrilled at the prospect of two huge performances bringing visitors to the town and pumping millions into the local economy.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism on Blackpool Council, said: “There’s a buzz of excitement around town.
“To have Mamma Mia! here and Rod Stewart too, we’re raising the bar of quality.
“There’s only one place that can compete with what we have and that’s London.”
Michael Williams, general manager of the Winter Gardens, said: “To see Mamma Mia! coming to fruition is such an important element of what we’re looking to do for the town.
“I love seeing the venue full and busy, it’s a real buzz.”
Ex-Faces star Rod’s gig in front of a packed crowd at Bloomfield, is alone is expected to pump £2m into the Fylde coast economy.
It has been described by those who are behind it as the biggest performance the town has seen.
Peter Taylor, of promoters Cuffe and Taylor, which is behind the show, described the gig as a “massive coup” for the town
“We’re all tremendously excited by the concert and Rod can’t wait either.
“It promises to be a real evening to remember,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s been a gig this size in Blackpool ever really.”
Business owners and hoteliers are also hoping to reap the rewards of the two smash hit shows.
Winter Gardens bosses anticipate the thousands of fans flocking to the venue each night will have a knock-on effect not just for others in the night-time economy but also the town’s attractions as people make a trip of it.
Helen Mansell, vice-president of Stay Blackpool, said: “I’m really excited about it.
“I’m looking forward to it being a wonderful success and it being the start of more shows in the future.
“We’ve had people booking to stay because they’re seeing Mamma Mia! but also I think people who are coming to Blackpool will see how brilliant it is and will be delighted to go.”
Bill Lewtas, secretary for Blackpool Licensed Taxis Association, which represents cabbies across the town, said: “Blackpool taxi drivers are very pleased to have it in town. It will be a huge success I’m sure and good for business.”
One restaurant boss has said he has already increased his staff by 35 per cent for the summer to cope with demand.
Gavin Mathams, manger of Pizza Express on Church Street, said: “I’m expecting it to go crazy, it’ll be a boost for the town. We’ve got in about a third more staff for the summer. I’m a Blackpool lad so seeing shows like this come in is amazing and as a manager its very good for business.”