Artist's impression of Bristol Arena
|Owner||Bristol City Council|
|Operator||SMG Europe and Live Nation|
|Construction cost||£123.5 million|
|Main contractors||Buckingham Group|
Bristol Arena was a planned 12,000-capacity indoor arena, next to Bristol Temple Meads railway station in Bristol, England. It was expected to be completed in 2020. The site, which has become known as 'Arena Island', is to the south and across the River Avon from the station, and lies within Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. The funding package for the arena scheme was approved by Bristol City Council in February 2014. The winning design, by Populous, was revealed in March 2015.
With the opening of the First Direct Arena in Leeds in the summer of 2013, Bristol became the largest city in the United Kingdom without a large arena-style venue. As of late 2013, Bristol's two largest music venues are the Colston Hall and the O2 Academy, which both hold around 2,000 people each.
Initial plans for Bristol Arena were announced in March 2003. The arena, to be built next to Bristol's largest railway station Temple Meads, was planned to have 10,000 seats and host music concerts as well as sports and conferences, and was intended to open by 2008 to coincide with the city's bid to be the European Capital of Culture. In June 2007, work had yet to begin on the arena despite around £13 million spent to purchase and clear the site. In late 2007, the plans were abandoned after developers announced that £40 million of public sector money would be required to fund the arena in addition to the £46m that had already been committed by Bristol City Council and the South West of England Regional Development Agency.
By 2009, plans for Bristol Arena were back on the agenda with two plans put forward. One plan, similar to plans for the site next to Temple Meads, was supported by the architect and future mayor, George Ferguson. The other plan, supported by Bristol City Council, was to build an arena next to Bristol City's proposed stadium at Ashton Vale. A number of legal challenges to Bristol City's proposed stadium caused the council to reconsider plans for an arena on the originally preferred site next to Temple Meads in 2012.
The site, which used to be the location of the Bristol Bath Road depot, was owned by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). It is the biggest undeveloped site in Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, an enterprise zone launched in 2012. In 2013 the HCA agreed to fund an £11 million road bridge over the River Avon, to link the site to Cattle Market Road and the railway station. The HCA transferred ownership of the arena site to Bristol City Council in March 2015. Construction of the 63-metre (207 ft) bridge took place from March to September 2015. It has lanes for cars, bicycles and pedestrians. In March 2016, it was named Brock's Bridge, after William Brock (1830–1907), a local builder and entrepreneur.
Once elected mayor, Ferguson launched a competition to find the best design for a 12,000 seat arena that would be "the most environmentally-friendly venue of its kind" and pledged that the project would be up and running within four years. This was followed by a bid to win £80 million from the government's Regional Growth Fund to partially fund the project and pay for renovations at Colston Hall, which ultimately proved unsuccessful.
In February 2014, the funding package for the arena scheme was approved as part of Bristol City Council's budget. The total cost of the arena, £91 million, would be funded by the council which would have provided £38 million with the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership funding the remaining £53 million.
In November 2014, the five shortlisted architects for the contract to design the arena were announced. The winning design by Populous, beating designs by Grimshaw Architects LLP, Idom Ingeniería y Consultoría, White Arkitekter and Wilkinson Eyre, was revealed in March 2015. The arena had been designed to achieve a BREEAM 'Excellent' rating and would've been able to quickly convert from a number of different layouts, with capacities ranging from 4,000 to 12,000. The preferred operators, SMG Europe and Live Nation, were announced in December 2014.
In March 2016, the arena plans suffered a further setback when the City's planning committee described the proposals as "defective" and deferred making a decision on them until an appropriate level of supporting information could be provided. Public concern over parking and transport around the proposals had not been properly addressed and the committee were not confident in the detail submitted for approval. George Ferguson claimed the planning committee had put the entire project at risk and the decision was "not about planning, it was about politics."
In January 2017, the projected opening of the arena was delayed to 2020 after Bristol City Council and preferred construction firm Bouygues UK failed to agree on construction costs. Three months later, it was announced that Buckingham Group, who had initially been the second preferred bidder, would carry out preliminary work on the site while negotiating a final price. Bristol City Council have also commissioned an independent review into the project's value for money.
In September 2018, Mayor Marvin Rees scrapped the arena plans altogether in favour of a mixed use development, leaving the Brabazon Hangar as the only option, although this is unlikely.
Criticism of the Temple Quarter arena plans had often been aimed at the low number of dedicated car parking spaces on site. Initial plans revealed there would be just 245 spaces on site, 200 of which would be in a temporary facility which would eventually be developed into offices, apartments and retail space. George Ferguson defended the plans, saying "it would be completely mad, completely mad, to put a mass of parking on the site." In February 2016, Bristol City Council denied it had performed a u-turn after it emerged an eight-storey, 480 space car park was to be considered for the site.
- O2 Academy Bristol, currently Bristol's largest concert venue
- Colston Hall, Bristol's second largest concert venue
- Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, the nearest comparable arena
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