Ambitious plan unlocked to upgrade NEC arena


Resorts World Arena, Solihull, England Image: NEC Group

A multi-million pound plan has been unveiled to increase the capacity of Solihull’s Resorts World Arena in England by around 6,000 in run-up to Birmingham hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2022. The extension will see up to £45 million ploughed into the construction.

The Resorts World Arena is a multipurpose indoor arena located at the National Exhibition Centre in Solihull, England. It has a capacity of 15,685 seats.

The arena is scheduled to host events in badminton, boxing, netball, table tennis and weightlifting at the Games which will run from July 27 to August 7, 2022. The arena forms part of the National Exhibition Centre and is owned by the NEC Group. NEC Group is UK’s leading live events business operating in exhibitions, conferences, music, sports, family entertainment and hospitality.

Media reports stated that design practice Populous has submitted plans for the arena’s expansion to Solihull Council. The expansion would make certain that the venue has a capacity of more than 21,000 for the Games, with a new roof set to be central to the plans, along with hospitality facilities, a new concourse and new entrances and exits.

Populous basically wants to remove the existing arena roof structure and replace it with a higher, larger volume roof.

A planning statement read, “The proposed expansion of Resorts World Arena seeks to ensure that all the shortcomings of the existing arena are addressed and that the venue will ultimately be capable of hosting the largest live productions and providing the highest quality user experience for the foreseeable future.”

A NEC Group spokesman added, “The extension will increase the venue’s seating capacity by 38 per cent to accommodate 21,600 people, with customers also benefiting from new hospitality, food, beverage and merchandise facilities.”

The spokesman further said, “As part of the project, a new roof is set to increase weight load capability and height clearance of the 40-year-old venue, ensuring it continues to attract world-class entertainment for the next generation.”

The new structure’s roof will be approximately 10 meters taller than the one currently standing.

At present, around 750,000 people visit the arena every year, with estimates that the upgrades will attract up to another 120,000 spectators annually.

The venue opened its doors in 1980 and redecoration work is expected to brush up its “dated” appearance. An NEC Group spokesman said that the improvement plans include new hospitality, food and beverage and merchandise facilities.

Manchester Arena is UK’s biggest facility and can pack in 21,000 spectators, while The O2 in London can fit in 20,000. Last month, Oak View Group (OVG) confirmed it was bringing forward a planning application for a new arena in Manchester that would be the largest in the UK boasting a capacity of up to 23,500.

Alexander Stadium will serve as the high spot of the 2022 Commonwealth Games and in January this year Birmingham City Council’s planning committee approved the revamp of the venue, which will increase its permanent capacity from 12,700 to 18,000 and accommodate more than 30,000 fans during the Games.

Other Birmingham 2022 host venues will include Arena Birmingham, Coventry’s Ricoh Arena and the Edgbaston Cricket Ground.

However, there may be concerns over the fact that the scheme does not contain any details as regards an increase in the on-site car parking provision.

A transport assessment pointed out that almost 30 per cent of visitors travel to the arena by train, coach, bus or on foot and that working in tandem with Highways England would help to streamline traffic around the complex.

The statement added, “The NEC Group has a positive track record of large-scale redevelopment projects. The flow of additional people and extra traffic has been factored into all stages of planning and is being carefully managed in conjunction with local stakeholders.”

Other firms working on the project include Arup, RLB and Mott MacDonald.

The application said the proposals would be built in a way that would minimize closure of the arena. The arena underwent a £28m refurbishment designed by DLA Design that was completed by GF Tomilinson in 2009. Mace was the Project Manager on the spruce-up work.

Originally opened as the Birmingham International Arena, top rock group Queen was the first act to play in the venue in December 1980. It was rechristened the NEC Arena in 1983 and later the LG Arena and the Genting Arena. Its most recent name change was announced in 2018.

A-list acts that have played in the venue over the decades include groups ranging from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to The Spice Girls and stand-ups such as Ricky Gervais and Peter Kay.

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