Proposals for a £4.2m community arena in the city, which will also be the new home for Leicester’s championship winning basketball team, the Leicester Riders, have been unveiled this week.
Leicester City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, announced the start of a project to provide a 2,000-plus capacity sports arena on council-owned land on Charter Street, adjacent to Leicester College’s Abbey Park campus.
Potentially up and running by the autumn/fall of 2015, the arena will be capable of staging major indoor events, as well as Riders’ matches. It would also house a fitness suite, classrooms, offices, bar and café.
During term-time, the facilities will be part of the teaching and learning offer to all Leicester College students attending sports courses, and all of the college’s 29,000 students will be offered access to the facilities through a membership scheme for sports enrichment activities. The Leicester Cobras wheelchair basketball club will also train and play at the arena, and community use will be offered to local schools and other groups, through an agreed programme.
The arena is key part of the council’s wider plans to regenerate the waterside area. These could include the building of a new footbridge over the canal to Abbey Park, and providing easier access for pedestrians and cyclists from Belgrave Circle to Wolsey Island.
The layout of the site will take account of the potential for further leisure development in the area.
Sir Soulsby said:
The development of this new arena would bring huge benefits to Leicester. It would provide a permanent city home for the Leicester Riders and Leicester Cobras, as well as greatly-needed facilities for the students of Leicester College, local schools and other young people.
It would also play a key role in our planned regeneration of the waterside area, bringing new life to a neglected area that was once the industrial heartland of the city, and connecting it with Belgrave Gate and the city centre through our other planned investment.
Leicester Riders’ Director Kevin Routledge added:
We are absolutely delighted that this much-needed project has finally got the go-ahead, after a lot of hard work and reviews with our partners.
The need for a community sports facility in the city has been well established, and Riders can finally have a long term home again in the city. We will be able to bring under one roof the participation, talent and elite programmes, male and female, of the Riders, who are by membership the second largest club in the country, as well as the oldest established club, and the current BBL Cup holders, and Women’s National Playoff Champions.
Subject to planning permission, the arena will be designed, built and operated by Leicester Community Sports Arena Ltd, a new company which sits under the Riders Foundation Charity. Leicester College and the city council will help to deliver the project.
Verity Hancock, Principal of Leicester College commented:
The new Leicester Community Sports Arena is fantastic news for the College and will enable the growth of both our sports provision and our enrichment sports programme.
The area allocated to the College in the new arena is twice the size of our existing facilities and it is anticipated that this will increase the number of sport learners by 50% from around 400 to 600 a year. The College is looking forward to continuing to work in close partnership with the Leicester Riders and Leicester City Council.
The city council intends to provide £1.5m funding to the project, and to give the charity a 125-year lease on the four-acre site. The council will receive a commercial rent for the site.
Funding partners will be Leicester College, contributing £500,000. Additional funding will come from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership with an £840,000 grant from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund. The Riders will contribute circa £500,000, and Sport England will potentially also provide funding. All funding will be subject to planning permission and other approvals being obtained.
The project includes the costs of decontaminating the site, which was a former gas works. The development of the arena is expected to generate more than 50 jobs and to kick-start the regeneration of the wider area.
The design of the arena will be finalised as soon as the city council has made a final decision on the funding and lease arrangements, and plans for the decontamination of the site will also get under way, as well as the studies and surveys needed to complete the planning application, which will be submitted later this month.