Bristol arena: Talks move plans another step closer
BRISTOL'S long-awaited arena is a step closer to becoming a reality, according to the city's mayor.
George Ferguson says he is involved in a second round of talks with potential partners for the scheme and hopes to have the designs and arena operators finalised by the end of the year.
If all goes to plan the £20 million arena would be built on vacant land close to Temple Meads station and would be open for business within four years' time.
Mr Ferguson launched a design competition for the 12,000 seater venue last week – but said he still has an open mind when it comes to the shape of the venue.
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He said: "We are now in the second round of talks with the operators and we have also looked at similar venues in other parts of the country.
"There is a debate about wether the venue should be a horseshoe shape or and a fan shape and we need to reach a decision on that with the operator.
"There are only four or five operators with the capability and experience to run an arena and we have been speaking to all of them.
"I do like the idea of an auditorium which is fan-shaped but it depends what kind of events we are planning to hold at the arena. If we are going to be holding sporting events as well as concerts and bands then it would make sense to go for the horseshoe design.
"We need to think long-term; things could change in 10 years' time and the arena might be used in a different way. We need to be prepared for that and think creatively.
"Bristol is left off the concert map because we are the only city without a proper arena and we cannot allow that to continue."
The arena is part of an ambitious master plan, which will see much of the city centre around the Redcliffe and Temple Meads area transformed.
"As well as making a statement about the city and its ambitions it will also help kickstart regeneration in the area around the station," said Mr Ferguson.
Land has already been set aside for the scheme behind Temple Meads station on the site of the former diesel depot. The now axed South West Regional Development Agency pumped £20 million into the project more than a decade ago only to decide it was not economically viable. The Local Enterprise Partnership, which is heading up the scheme, and the mayor have been working together on the project.
Mr Ferguson said: "The scheme will cost around £80 million and at the moment we have a shortfall of around £20 million, but there are ways we can make up that shortfall.
"We have three options which are setting up a hands-off company, or we could hand over the arena to a private operator or set up a joint venture. The way we are heading at the moment is down the route of a joint venture, we would want to keep some control in the running of the arena."
One aim is to make the new arena the most environmentally-friendly venue of its kind ever built.