|Former names||Milton Keynes Bowl (1979–1992)|
|Location||Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England|
|Operator||Gaming International/Live Nation UK|
The National Bowl (originally the Milton Keynes Bowl) is an entertainment venue located in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. The site was a former clay pit (for brick-making), filled in and raised to form an amphitheatre using sub-soil excavated by the many new developments in the area. It has a maximum capacity of 65,000. The arena is open-air grassland, without seats.
In 1992, Sony/Pace bought the venue and re-branded it as the National Bowl, building a massive permanent sound stage. They pulled out in 1996 citing profitability reasons.
English Partnerships, which merged with the Homes and Communities Agency in 2008, bought the site in 2000. From 2006 to 2010, it was leased to a Gaming International/Live Nation UK consortium.
2006 development plans
On 23 January 2006, Gaming International/Live Nation won a further lease in a competitive tender. The consortium made proposals for major developments in a a development summary leaflet (previously linked from the 'Backstage' section of the National Bowl website, now removed).
Gaming International handed The Bowl back to Milton Keynes Partnership towards the end of 2010 – so it is unlikely that any of the plans outlined in 2006 will ever be undertaken – apart from a temporary structure built close to The Bowl in summer 2010 which has a temporary three-year planning permission.
2013 proposed plans
In December 2011, Milton Keynes Council officially adopted proposals to make Milton Keynes an “International Sporting City” which included ambitious plans to redevelop the National Bowl into an international-standard sports training base suitable for hosting visiting international teams when they played at Stadium MK or elsewhere in the UK and also as a permanent home for MK Dons.
Milton Keynes Council agreed to fund the training complex as part of a property deal with Inter MK, a property development company owned by MK Dons chairman Peter Winkelman, on land owned by the Council in Newport Pagnell that was earmarked for housing development and expected to increase substantially in value when planning permission was given. The funding plan involved sale of the site to Inter MK for £2 million, with half of any increase in the value of the site being used to fund the training ground development and the remainder being returned to the Council. However, this plan was abandoned in early 2014 following some local residents beginning judicial review proceedings against the Council on the basis that the plan involved illegal state aid to Inter MK.
2014 proposed plans
In February 2014, the BBC reported that an investment company had proposed a new development at the site of Milton Keynes Bowl. This was planned to include the UK's largest water park, and a range of sports facilities and enhancements to the arena. In July 2015, the investment firm leading the proposal announced that it would not proceed with the plan.
2019–2023 proposed plans
In June 2019, Milton Keynes Council replaced the previous objective in its Council Plan to "Revitalise MK Bowl" with an objective to "Support the MK Dons in delivering a high-standard training ground and academy".
This allowed a deal to be agreed in September 2019 between Milton Keynes Council and Inter MK Limited for the National Bowl to be converted into a sports training ground facility partly funded by the Section 106 contributions from enabling commercial and leisure development at the site.
This returned to the 2013 proposals which Milton Keynes Council had decided not to pursue. It followed the sale by Inter MK of land in Newport Pagnell to Milton Keynes Council for £11 million in July 2018.
Inter MK is expected to lodge its planning application with Milton Keynes Council by the end of 2020.
In February 2023, Inter MK said that it had been granted planning permission for two full-sized football pitches and training grids on the site, "with plans to still hold concerts at the site in future".
- Queen have released a DVD and double CD of their 1982 appearance at the Bowl entitled Queen on Fire - Live at the Bowl.
- Status Quo had their End of the Road Concert filmed here in 1984, it was released on 2 VHS tapes, End of the Road, and More from End of the Road, the concert marked their end as a touring band, but later revived in 1985 for the Live Aid Concert.
- Michael Jackson performed at this venue in front of 60,000 fans (on each of three successive nights) and there is only a recording (so far) including Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', This Place Hotel, and Another Part of Me.
- Erasure performed their last date of the Wild! Tour and called "Erasure Live at Milton Keynes Bowl" on 1 September 1990 with more than 60,000 people in the National Bowl. This spectacular show by Erasure was broadcast live on "Radio 1" and BBC Television and it was presented by BBC Radio 1's Gary Davies.
- Metallica performed their last leg of the Wherever I May Roam Tour and called it Nowhere Left to Roam at the Bowl on 5 June 1993. This was broadcast live on "Radio 1".
- Green Day's album Bullet in a Bible, and the accompanying DVD, were recorded at the National Bowl in the summer of 2005. The band's two-night stand was supported by Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday and Hard-Fi. The bowl also appears in Green Day: Rock Band as one of the playable venues.
- Linkin Park released Road to Revolution: Live at Milton Keynes, a CD/DVD set from their first ever UK Projekt Revolution show, filmed on 29 June 2008. Jay Z also headlined with supporting acts Pendulum, N.E.R.D, Enter Shikari, The Bravery & Innerpartysystem. This show turned out to be the biggest capacity Projekt Revolution to date, and it was the first year in the tour's history to be featured outside North America.
- The Prodigy have released first live album and second DVD of their 2010 appearance at the Bowl entitled World's on Fire.
- Swedish House Mafia held their (then) final UK show on their farewell tour in July 2012. Scenes from the performance were seen in the music video for their final single, "Don't You Worry Child".
The Bowl is in south central Milton Keynes, at the junction of Watling Street with Chaffron Way, just north of Bletchley. Parking on site (MK5 8AA) is very limited so fans are encouraged to arrive by public transport. In addition to the shuttle buses from Milton Keynes Central railway station, it is also an easy walk (about 2 km (1.2 mi)) from the station using Sustrans National Cycle Route 51 from the south side of the station building.
- National Bowl official website
- International Sporting City Steering Group Final Report (PDF) (Report). Milton Keynes Council. 2011.
- "Minutes of the meeting of Milton Keynes Council". 18 December 2013.
- James Averill (26 February 2014). "Call for judicial review of land". MK News.
- "Minutes of the meeting of Milton Keynes Council Executive Scrutiny Panel". 16 January 2014.
- "Milton Keynes Council response to FOI request (Tickford Fields)". 17 April 2019.
- "Ambitions for The Bowl" (Press release). MK Dons. 6 July 2013.
- "National Bowl Development Brief, paper for Milton Keynes Council meeting". Milton Keynes Council. 4 September 2013.
- Milton Keynes National Bowl plans £26m indoor water park - BBC Beds, Hertz and Bucks, 27 February 2014
- Setback for National Bowl plans, Milton Keynes Citizen, 14 July 2015
- "Milton Keynes Council Plan 2016-2022". Milton Keynes Council. 11 July 2019.
- "Dons given the nod to redevelop the National Bowl as a training base". Milton Keynes Citizen. 19 September 2019.
- Corporate Performance Report Annex B, Paper presented to meeting of Milton Keynes Council Scrutiny Management Committee (Report). 10 October 2018.
- "Delegated Decision Committee, Combined Decision Sheet". Milton Keynes Council. 12 June 2018.
- "Interview with Andy Cullen". MKFM. 10 April 2020.
- "Muse: Milton Keynes National Bowl hosts first gig in seven years". BBC News. 2 February 2023.
- Holland, Kris (26 June 2023). "Football pitches to be built at city music venue". BBC News.