Resorts World Arena set to wear smart look



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Resorts World Arena June 2020 Image: arenacrossuk.com

The local authorities have given its thumbs-up to plans to modify the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham into the UK’s biggest indoor venue.

The arena, which forms part of the National Exhibition Centre and is owned by the NEC Group, has a present capacity of 15,600 but the redevelopment will see the capacity increase to 21,600, 6,000 more than at present. The NEC’s concert arena will be able to hold bigger crowds than London’s O2.

The O2 is a large entertainment district on the Greenwich peninsula in South East London, England, including an indoor arena, a music club, a Cineworld cinema, an exhibition space, piazzas, bars, and restaurants.

NEC Group is the UK’s leading live events business operating in exhibitions, conferences, music, sports, family entertainment and hospitality.

Plans to refurbish and expand the arena in Birmingham, which sits in the borough of Solihull, were first highlighted in March. The expansion would be completed ahead of Birmingham’s 2022 Commonwealth Games, at which Resorts World Arena is scheduled to host badminton, boxing, netball, table tennis and weightlifting events.

Media reports stated the Solihull Borough Council members recently gave the green light to the plans. Major design changes would be made to the arena as part of the scheme of things, and would include a new roof, hospitality facilities and a new concourse. However, some of the councilors were saddened to see the end of an era for the original arena – which opened its doors 40 years back.

Media reports also stated that it will be a £45m (€50m/$55m) redevelopment project.

The Resorts World Arena opened in 1980 and it is hoped the work will improve its “dated” appearance. Almost 300 jobs are expected to be generated through the development.

The repurposing work could make Resorts World Arena the largest UK arena in terms of capacity, but that title is set to be hotly contested over the coming years. Manchester Arena is currently the UK’s biggest arena and can hold 21,000 spectators with The O2 seating 20,000. In April this year, Oak View Group published plans for a new arena in Manchester that would be able to accommodate 23,500 people. However, an early-stage development was unveiled in March that would expand Manchester Arena’s overall capacity to 24,000, making it the largest indoor arena in Europe. Other venues that will be utilized during the 2022 Commonwealth Games include Alexander Stadium, which itself will undergo extensive renovation work, Arena Birmingham, Coventry’s Ricoh Arena and Edgbaston.

The development will see replacing the existing roof, with the new design 10 meters higher than the present structure.

Councilor David Cole (Lab, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) said he was sad that the “iconic” look of the current arena was set to disappear, comparing the new proposals to more like a football stadium.

“When I come back from late-night council meetings, especially in the winter, it’s lit-up quite well and the towers and the support structures do it justice,” Cole added.

Councilor Glenis Slater (Lib Dem, Elmdon) remarked, “[The scheme] is very much needed if it’s going to keep up with the other cities in this country.”

But she said that the whole issue of how the surrounding roads coped with big events at the venue going forward will have to be revisited.

Kim Allen, a council Planning Officer, opined that the plans had been examined by the Highways England because of the site’s close proximity to the M42.

Her colleague Ben Malin said that the council had also been involved in discussions about the impact on traffic, with modeling suggesting there wouldn’t be a “severe” impact.

“It’s also worth noting that [the application] for the improvements to the M42 junction was recently approved, which should then also ease congestion in and around that area in future,” he told committee members.

For Councilor Karl Macnaughton (Green, Chelmsley Wood), the issue of bus travel also needed a closer scrutiny – “If you’re going by bus, the bus really goes nowhere near the actual venues you’re trying to get to. It goes to the airport, it goes to the train station and that’s it. And there are also very limited services to there.”

Malin said that public transport links were also subject to discussions.

Papers submitted to the council on behalf of the NEC Group pointed out that the old arena had become outdated and the reconfiguration work would help the destination look spiffy in tune with the demands of the biggest live shows.

In a previous statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), the organization said, “The extension will increase the venue’s seating capacity by 38 per cent … with customers also benefiting from new hospitality, food, beverage and merchandise facilities.”

One hundred and sixty jobs would be created on the construction project and up to 800 would be employed to work during the biggest events – almost a third more than at present.

Councilor Richard Holt, Chair of the Planning Committee, noted, “I think we’ve got a world-class venue here, whereby we should be proud of the international events we are able to host in our area. It’s clearly a victim of its own success in that it needs more space.”

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