The shambles over the Bristol Arena has been highlighted by the announcement that a decision has been made on the location for a new Cardiff indoor arena, according to a leading commercial property expert.
Tim Davies, head of the South West and Wales for Colliers International, spoke out after Cardiff Council announced it had chosen the location for a new 15,000 seater indoor arena in the city, and that work could start in two years.
“The visionary and decisive approach of Cardiff Council in identifying a need for a new indoor arena and then reaching a decision on a location after evaluating a number of possible locations has served to highlight the shambles on the other side of the bridge in Bristol, where there is still no arena after over a decade of inertia and lack of decision,” he said.
“It is, frankly, an embarrassment for everyone in Bristol that it is the only major city without an arena – and the fact that it is lagging behind other cities has been brought into sharp relief by the fact that neighbouring Cardiff is now actively working on a new 15,000 seater multi-purpose arena that could be open in two years and would enhance an already strong leisure offer which includes the Principality Stadium.
“While this work takes place, Cardiff will still enjoy the economic benefits of the 7,500 seater Motorpoint Arena. While considered to be in need of replacement as it is smaller than many other UK arenas, it nevertheless has been a significant commercial success since it opened in 1993, and is estimated to make a £29 million gross value added contribution to the local economy each year.”
Work on building a Bristol Arena at Arena Island in the city centre was halted last year following concerns about escalating costs, and in April councillors are to make a decision on whether it should be built there or out of town at the former Brabazon hangar site in Filton.
Mr Davies said he believed the success of Cardiff in pushing ahead with plans for a new indoor arena raised questions about the strategy of Bristol City Council for an arena in the city.
“The indicative cost of a new arena for Cardiff has been put at £100 million, and Cardiff council have clearly managed to produce a financial plan to support this,” he said.
“Meanwhile, we have been told that the original estimated cost of a Bristol Arena was £59 million and has grown to at least £94 million, or £123.5 million if associated infrastructure is taken into account, and this increase is being used by some to lobby for the arena to be located in Filton instead of at the city centre site where work has already begun.
“Increasing costs are what is called inflation, and in major construction projects this usually occurs following extended periods of procrastination – something which has certainly beset the Bristol Arena project, apart from during the time when George Ferguson was Mayor, and demonstrated what could be achieved when the political will was there.
“It has been estimated that a Bristol Arena would provide a £150 million boost to the regional economy, including some 1,000 gross direct and indirect jobs.
“It is therefore puzzling that nothing has been heard about attempts by Bristol City Council to secure investment partners in this project which already has the fundamentals in place, and it is worrying that when the city’s current Mayor, Marvin Rees, met prospective investors in Malaysia and China at the end of last year the Bristol Arena was noticeable by its absence from the prospectus he presented.”
In response to Mr Davies’ comments, a spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “We are 100% committed to delivering an arena for Bristol, at a cost the city can afford. We now have two potential options to look at which is a positive development.
“Extensive evaluation of both potential options is needed to allow us to make a fully informed decision on the best way to achieve this. We are making good progress and expect to provide a further update in April.”