A move to unite three major Bristol sporting brands in a £100m sports and convention centre campus moved a step closer today with the unveiling of the scheme’s updated blueprints.
Ashton Gate is already home to Bristol City Football Club and Bristol Bears rugby club, but moves are underway to bring Bristol Flyers basketball team into the fold in a massive new development alongside the stadium.
Plans include a 4,000-seater arena which would become a permanent home for the Flyers, but which would also be capable of hosting music and theatre events, major conferences and more.
All of this will be supplemented by supporting development including a 230-room hotel, gym, shop, museum and housing, with plenty of open space for fan zones and other events – all of which is predicted to have a positive economic ripple effect across the whole city.
For example, past major music events held at Ashton Gate have been showed to see Bristol’s hotel occupancy rates rise by 7% and room rates by 20%, while seeing a big lift in footfall in retail areas too.
A draft project proposal was revealed last year, but today’s revised blueprint featured a number of significant changes.
Amendments included a reduction in building height, more open space, increased emphasis on sustainability, enhanced travel and transport schemes and improved building designs.
Ashton Gate Chairman Martin Griffiths unveiled the plans to 200 invited guests this morning, and said the project could have a major impact on all facets of Bristol life.
He said: “It’s really exciting to be able to show the digital fly-through to everyone today.
“Since first announcing plans back in September 2018 we’ve been busy consulting with as many stakeholders as possible.
“The reaction and interaction that we’ve had has been really positive and has brought us to the designs we are showing today. There is now more open space and public realm areas along with a reduction in the height of the tallest buildings.
“We think that these latest designs are a great step forward.”
Griffiths revealed 600 people currently work at Ashton Gate, which injects around £9m a year into local supply chains.
However, he said the new development would create additional 3-400 jobs, while also giving the city the capability to attract major international events such as conventions and expos.
Underpinning it all, however, is a desire to have a positive impact on Bristol and its inhabitants – something Griffiths said is vital to a city where 42/70 wards are considered disadvantaged, and 25% of the population live in poverty.
Griffiths said: “Sport has a part to play in addressing these inequalities. We want to be changing lives through sport, reaching out to the people of Bristol to make a significant difference to people’s lives.
“From the outset, we wanted to make sore we were engaged with local business to show gains across the community. We will work to attract new funding and create new opportunities. This brings a significant amount of spend into the city, and it permeates right across.
“This is not just any other business – we are right at the heart of the community. The football club has been here 100 years, and it will be in another 100 years – we are the stewards passing through and have to make sure we do the right things by this community.
“It is a core social responsibility to hold out our hands to those less advantaged.”
Plans will go on display to the public for the first time at a public exhibition at Ashton Gate on March 24 and 25.
This will then be followed by wider public consultation and a feedback period, before a formal planning application is submitted in September.
The aim ‘if things go according to plan and timetable,’ says Griffiths, is to break ground on the development in May or June 2021.
However, the proposal has already earned support from business organisations in the city.
Mark Payne, of Bristol Hoteliers Association, said: “Bristol’s sporting quarter will create hundreds of jobs and become a vibrant destination, drawing more visitors in who may well then want to venture a little further afield and see what else the city has to offer.
“We have already seen – and benefited from – spikes in visitor numbers through major recent concerts held at Ashton Gate, and this development will provide even more incentives and attractions to draw people to Bristol.”