Leeds Arena
Leeds Arena is the name of an under-construction arena in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England to design and construct a 13,500 capacity arena in the city centre of Leeds. This will be the first arena to be built in Leeds and will have a "super-theatre" format.

Previous attempts
Leeds has been one of the largest cities in the United Kingdom without a major venue to hold music or sporting events. As of February 2010 , Bristol and Leeds are the only major cities without an arena style venue. Previously, the Queen's Hall was used for popular music concerts but this was demolished in 1989. Since 1989, there have been a number of failed attempts at building a major venue in Leeds. In December 1997, there were plans to develop a 15,000 seater arena adjacent to the West Stand of Leeds United's Elland Road stadium which would have accommodated basketball, ice hockey, pop concerts and other entertainment events. This did not proceed due to a number of reasons including 1) local opposition and 2) latter proposals for Leeds United to move to a new stadium at Skelton Grange (although this move did not take place). In July 2005 there was a fully private sector funded proposal to develop an arena in Leeds through a company known as Leeds Arena Ltd. They had intended to develop an arena with 12,000 seats in the Clarence Dock area to the south east of Leeds city centre. This did not proceed due to 1) a lack of council support due to the council believing that there should be some public sector involvement in the scheme, 2) a lack of space to develop an arena at Clarence Dock and lastly 3) a question on whether Leeds Arena Ltd had sufficient funding. A number of other sites were suggested including Sweet Street but eventually these proposals did not develop any further.

Public demand for an arena in Leeds
An arena has been long requested by residents in Leeds. The consultation on the Vision for Leeds 2004 to 2020 showed a strong demand from the public for a new arena, and the project became one of the city's 12 priorities. The Leeds Initiative formed a Cultural facilities task group to consider options. It appointed PMP consultants whose report outlined the viability of a Leeds Arena,and other potential projects such as a concert hall. The task group recommended that the Council proceed with the development of a 12,500 seat arena. Whilst this study was taking place, campaigners including the Yorkshire Evening Post lobbied for a new arena to be built in the city. This resulted in a widescale 'Leeds needs an arena' campaign that had endorsements from local artists including the Kaiser Chiefs as well as local businesses and residents. The campaign was well publicised in local media, and included popular Myspace and Facebook groups.

Developer and operator competition
Following this, competitions began to find an operator and developer for an arena. In March 2008, SMG were chosen as the future operators of the Leeds Arena. Reports suggested that this followed world wide interest from potential operators in the scheme. SMG also operate arenas in Newcastle, Belfast and Manchester and operate over 200 venues worldwide. The addition of Leeds strengthens their position in the UK Arena market. A small number of users of web forums expressed concern that the Manchester Evening News (MEN) Arena may host events at the expense of Leeds Arena owing to the MEN Arena's larger capacity of 23,000. However, SMG's European managing director has stated that Leeds will be its "flagship venue" in Europe and that they expect Leeds Arena "to be in the top 10 in the world within two to three years of opening". Two main bidders were involved in the competition to develop the arena. These were the Council owned land at Elland Road as one location which would have been developed by GMI and land owned by Montpellier Estates in Sweet Street, Holbeck with Montpellier Estates being developer of the latter site. However in November 2008, Leeds City Council announced they had chosen Claypit Lane as the site for the new arena and would proceed as the developer. This resulted in a legal challenge from Montpellier Estates.

Current plans
The arena's location, on Claypit Lane is situated at the Northern Quarter of Leeds city centre, behind the Merrion Centre and Morrisons Supermarket. The land the arena is to be built on is the Claypit Lane Council car park and land formerly owned by Leeds Metropolitan University. Demolition of the former Leeds Metropolitan building was completed in 2009. On Tuesday 16 December 2008, Leeds City Council announced their plans for the arena, those plans included:
  • Two separate seating bowls - an upper tier for 7,000 people and a lower tier for 5,000.
  • Clear views of the centre of the stage from every seat.
  • Sufficient flexibility to allow the arena to host family entertainment and sporting events as well as concerts.
  • A restaurant for 100 diners and a 150-capacity hospitality lounge.
  • More than 100 concession, merchandise and retail stands or outlets.
  • Soundproofing to reduce disturbance for local residents and businesses.
  • An anticipated minimum number of 110 event days per year.
The city council launched concept design images in Summer 2009 and have stated that detailed design will be announced in Spring 2010 along with images of external design. The arena will be constructed in a super theatre fan shaped format as opposed to the more conventional bowl or horse-shoe seating arrangement commonly used by most arenas in the United Kingdom. Standing capacity, according to the detailed plans hosted on the City council's website, will be around 2,000, some 3,000 less than at the arenas in Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester Leeds Arena is officially under construction as of Valentines day 2011. Independent economic impact assessments conducted by Yorkshire Forward show that the new arena will bring over £25 million to the local economy every year and bring 300 full time jobs. The money provided by Leeds City Council will come from part of the proceeds from their sale of Leeds Bradford International Airport in October 2007, Yorkshire Forward grant support and revenues from rent and commercial activities. The total scheme costs are estimated to be in the region of £80 million including land costs.

Project team
On 21 April 2009, Leeds City Council announced they had appointed its strategic design partner, Jacobs, to take on the role of developing the design for the venue. Jacobs have appointed Populous to provide the design team with specialist architectural expertise for arena design. Davis Langdon are the Quantity Surveyor and Arup the external planning agent. According to the Leeds City Council, a construction contract will be let for the Leeds Arena in 2010.

Opposition from South Yorkshire
Yorkshire Forward's support and intended £18 million funding has gained much publicity and has been subject to fierce political fighting. Some critics outlined that public funding is common on most recent Arena developments as seen in the Manchester, Nottingham and Liverpool developments. Each arena gained public funding and this was not protested by other established arenas. However, there was some opposition to the Leeds Arena from the owners of Sheffield Arena and Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield Attercliffe, who believe that the arena would adversely affect Sheffield Arena especially as the Leeds Arena would acquire funding from Yorkshire Forward. However, Yorkshire Forward stated that they fully support the development of an arena in Leeds and that an independent economic impact assessment also showed that a Leeds Arena would be of benefit to the entire region. Subsequently, Yorkshire Forward reaffirmed support to provide funding to the scheme. However, following a decision by BIS, central government initially did not authorise Yorkshire Forward to provide funding to the scheme. Soon after, it was announced that £9.9 million funding was authorised by central government. This was met with fierce criticism from Sheffield MPs, but received positive responses in the Leeds City Region.

Building Activity

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