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Five design teams shortlisted for Bristol Arena project

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Bristol’s Mayor, George Ferguson, has announced a shortlist of five experienced design teams for the 12,000-capacity Bristol Arena, at his annual State of the City address last night. He also told the 1,000-strong audience at Bristol University that, subject to final negotiations and Cabinet approval, a preferred operator for the arena has been selected and is likely to be announced in December.

The announcement of the shortlisted design teams followed a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Design Competition that was launched in August. Over 30 teams from across the world, expressed interest in designing the cultural venue that will be located close to Bristol Temple Meads Station and is due to open towards the end of 2017. The five teams are:


Grimshaw: is leading a consortium of architects and designers, which is said to have a “comprehensive knowledge of arena venues, along with large-scale cultural destinations”. Previous projects they have been involved in include Wimbledon No.1 Court; the Eden Project; and The Curragh Racecourse in Ireland.

IDOM: is an international architectural and engineering company, which has designed Bilbao Arena; and the new 55,000-seat San Mames Football stadium for Athletic Bilbao.

Populous: one of the world’s leading designers of sports and entertainment facilities, having worked on more than 2,000 projects, including London’s Olympic Stadium and O2 Arena; O2 World Berlin; 3Arena in Dublin; and the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

Wilkinson Eyre Architects: twice winners of both the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize and the RIBA Lubetkin Prize, boast a portfolio of “bold, beautiful and intelligent architecture”, including the Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre; the Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore; the London 2012 Olympic Basketball Arena; and the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Training Centre.

White Arkitekter: is Scandinavia’s leading architectural firm and recent projects include the Tele2 Arena, a 30,000-seat sports venue in Stockholm; a cultural centre in Umeå; and a £1.3bn hospital in Stockholm billed as “Europe’s greenest”; as well as a 100-year masterplan to relocate the city of Kiruna in the north of Sweden


The multi-disciplinary teams include architects and engineers and all have experience of delivering major venues in the UK or overseas. They will now work on their design proposals for the Bristol Arena, which will be submitted in January 2015. A public exhibition of all five design proposals will take place in January prior to a decision being made in March.

A report recommending a preferred and reserve operator for the arena is due to go to Cabinet in December. The operator will programme the venue, maintain and manage the facility for the duration of the 25 year lease and input into its design.

Mayor Ferguson said:

We are at an important milestone in the development of Bristol’s new entertainment arena. Subject to final negotiation and Cabinet consideration on 2nd December, we have selected a highly experienced arena operator, to manage and programme this major venue.I am also delighted with the level of high level interest that we have had in the RIBA design competition. We have been through a rigorous selection process to settle on a competition short list of five extremely talented design teams with a wealth of experience between them.

I am confident that the new arena will provide one of the very best experiences for audiences and major acts and that it will make a huge contribution to the regeneration of the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. This takes us a couple of major steps closer to a 2017 delivery of this much needed venue for the city region.

Lynne Sullivan of RIBA commented:

Overall, the quality of the competition submissions was extraordinarily good and we are satisfied that those chosen for the second stage of the city’s exciting journey, to deliver the heart of Bristol’s new quarter, will bring the right combination of experience and inspiration to the final selection of the Bristol Arena design team.


Colin Skellett, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership added:

The level of interest in the new arena is excellent, with a strong shortlist of design teams demonstrating the extent of the ambition. This important development will bring economic benefits, jobs and growth to the city region.


The Bristol Arena is due to open towards the end 2017 and will be located in the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

About Bristol Arena:The Bristol Arena is a new 12,000-capacity performance venue, due to be located close to Bristol Temple Meads station on Arena Island – the former diesel depot site. The arena will be a catalyst for development in the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and will attract millions of pounds of investment to the city region.The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), is investing GBP£11m to build a new bridge across the river from Cattlemarket Road and has commissioned a masterplan for the whole site to show how lively streets, public spaces and large and small buildings could complement an arena. 

Latest developments

  • The funding package for the arena was agreed by Bristol City Council’s Full Council in February 2014
  • An operator for the arena has been selected and will be announced following Cabinet approval in December
  • Five design teams have been shortlisted to participate in the second stage of the RIBA Design Competition and a team will be selected in March 2015
  • Allies and Morrison Architects have been appointed to shape the creative vision for the Arena Island site where Bristol’s new arena will be located
  • Work is underway on a transport strategy for the arena


Work will start on site early in 2016 and the arena is due to open in 2017.


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Plans unveiled for a £4.2m Community Arena in Leicester, UK

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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.