COVID pushes back Bristol Arena opening date



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Bristol Arena update April 2021 Image: Artist impression

The developer behind Bristol Arena (UK) – which was slated to get off the ground in 2020 – has confirmed that it is now looking at a 2024 opening date due to the “frustrating and inevitable” setbacks of the past year as the United Kingdom slowly gets back to normalcy after a devastating attack of the COVID-19 variant.

‘Bristol Post’ stated recently that owner YTL Corporation has revealed more details about the huge music venue it is set to build at the former Brabazon Hangars in Filton (Bristol, UK) and confirmed that it is aiming to open in 2024 rather than late 2023.

YTL Arena Bristol is a planned 17,000-capacity indoor arena, located on the former Filton Airfield’s Brabazon hangar. Original plans were for the arena to be built next to Bristol Temple Meads Railway Station in Bristol, England, and were expected to be completed in 2020.

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)-headquartered YTL Corporation Berhad is a Malaysian infrastructure conglomerate, founded in 1955 by Yeoh Tiong Lay, after whom the group is named. The company has grown from a small construction firm into a global infrastructure company generating over RM18 billion in revenues with over 70 percent coming from overseas.

YTL also announced recently about how much money it will put towards projects in the area as a condition of its planning consent.

‘Bristol Post’ further stated that YTL also confirmed more information about the 17,080-capacity arena itself, including keeping sustainability high on its scheme of things and the ambition for it to be carbon-neutral and “the most responsible and sustainable arena in Europe”.

Andrew Billingham, Managing Director, YTL Arena Complex, said his team has reached a “key milestone” in signing the Section 106 agreement with authorities – the agreement of the cash the developer will put towards infrastructure improvements in the local community.

Added Billingham, “Completing the Section 106 agreement has been an enormous effort from all of those involved and is a remarkable achievement in such a challenging year. The past year has been hugely frustrating and inevitably our program has slipped, but we are still on track to open our next generation, state-of-the-art arena which we can all be proud of, in 2024.”

Earlier, Billingham had maintained that they were aiming to open in late 2023 or early 2024 “at the latest” due to the disastrous impact of coronavirus in the United Kingdom.

However, the recent statement by the top official just mentioned 2024 rather than early 2024.
 

Smooth ride

The developer announced details of the Section 106 deal they have struck, which is money developers give to councils and other authorities to improve community facilities as a condition of their planning consent.

YTL has pledged £3.1m in total, which includes:

  • More than £1m to improve bus services to YTL Arena Complex;
  • This includes £562,000 to expand Portway Park & Ride and facilitate electric vehicle charging;
  • The £1m also covers £420,000 for dedicated City Centre shuttle bus facilities;
  • A further £1.1m funding towards the Filton/Southmead A38 corridor;
  • Another £750,000 to “support event day parking schemes in our local neighborhoods, in consultation with local residents”. This consultation will be funded by YTL but managed by the councils and will aim to protect street parking in neighboring areas;
  • Junction and traffic light improvements; and
  • Cycling facilities.

 
The cash has been agreed following an entire year of discussions with the South Gloucestershire and Bristol City councils, as the development site straddles the council boundary.
 

Green vision

Billingham said of the £3.1m sum – “This demonstrates our commitment and determination to not only create one of the leading arenas in Europe, but to make sure that we have a positive impact on our local communities. We’re putting sustainability centerstage, making it our goal to create the most responsible and sustainable arena in Europe, and to be carbon-neutral from Day One.”

He added, “As well as solar paneling, battery storage and rainwater harvesting, we will encourage our staff and visitors to travel by sustainable transport methods, and drive down car dependency. We’ll be at the forefront of the touring industry’s shift towards greener practices.”

He said once operational, the arena complex will generate more than 500 jobs, with employees receiving a living wage. More jobs will be created through the construction mode.

YTL had previously maintained that it expected to start construction works in ‘mid-2021’, but, the picture is presently unclear as to whether they intend to go ahead with the ‘mid-2021’ date.

Billingham continued, “Not only will the arena bring new business and an economic boost to the region, but through our community program we will also support local groups and organizations, harnessing the power of music for the greater good.”
 

Letting your hair down!

In the announcement, YTL reiterated its vision to “put Bristol on the world stage for live music and entertainment”.

The statement sent out by the entity added, “We strive for customer service excellence and aim to create the ultimate night out, offering a superb combination of live events and fantastic food: A return-again experience for all. Bristol is constantly evolving, reinventing and reimagining itself with people who are passionate about creating new possibilities. The YTL Arena Complex aims to celebrate this: A place where foodies, explorers, collectors, socializers, culture shapers meet and new experiences are created every day.”

The arena is poised to become one of the biggest live music venues in the UK.
 

Arena details

At 28,000m2, the floor space of the Brabazon Hangars – where the Concorde was built – is more than twice the size of a large football pitch.

YTL has confirmed how it will be arranged:

  • Central Hangar – The 17,080-capacity, multipurpose arena auditoriums. It will be able to host live music shows, sporting events, family entertainment, and comedy shows. On the ground floor, there will be the Runway Bar, covering the entire width of the central hangar and will be able to accommodate 3,000 people;
  • East Hangar – The Festival Hall. This will be a floor space for trade shows, exhibitions, conventions and other events; and
  • West Hangar – The Hub. This is where arena visitors will be able to “eat, work and play”, YTL says. The 365-day-a-year facility will have room for leisure, food, drinks, and workspace.

 
Plans to deliver an arena in Bristol were first unveiled more than 18 years back, and controversy arose when the Temple Island site near Temple Meads was scrapped in favor of Filton Airfield.

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