£80m Bid For New Bristol Arena & Colston Hall Redevelopment

Monday, 22nd April 2013

An ambitious bid for £80 million of funding to help pay for two major venues in Bristol has been lodged with the Government. A partnership between Bristol City Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership has put in the £80 million bid to help pay for Bristol's long- awaited indoor arena and to enable the second phase of improvements at Colston Hall.


The city is bidding for a slice of the government's Regional Growth Fund and a decision is expected to come out of Westminster within the next two to three months. Around £50 million of the bid will be used to pay towards the £80 million 12,000-seat indoor arena next to Temple Meads station. The rest of the cash has been earmarked for the second phase of the redevelopment of Colston Hall.


The exterior of the concert hall and the foyer has undergone a major overhaul but the auditorium and backstage facilities are still in serious need of improvement. Four years ago the concert hall's new £20 million foyer was opened to create a dramatic new entrance to the building; however the planned work on the 2,000-seat auditorium had to be halted because of public spending cuts.


According to the council the building is in desperate need of £10 million worth of repairs just to keep it open. Work which needs to be carried out includes roof repairs, a new heating system, rewiring, redecorating and creating more balconies to help improve the acoustics inside the auditorium. There are also plans to include facilities for customers include a cellar bar and better seating as well as revamp of the whole of the backstage area.


Land that was owned by the defunct South West Regional Development Agency has been set aside for a 12,000 capacity indoor arena. Around £20 million was spent on preparing the site, which was a diesel depot, only for the development agency to pull the plug on the project. The new owner of the land the Homes and Community Agency is backing the scheme and there are plans in place to open up the site with a new bridge.


Colin Skellett, Chairman of the West of England Development Agency, said: "We do have money in place for the arena as part of the City Deal which was agreed with the Government last year. If we were successful with this bid it would mean that the money we have earmarked for the arena under the City Deal could be spent on other infrastructure schemes in the city."


He added: "We believe that the two schemes sit alongside each other. A city the size of Bristol should be competing with other centres in terms of the quality of venues on offer. There is an economic case because major venues bring in investment and spending." Mr Ferguson also believes the two projects are complementary and desperately needed if the city is looking to compete with other regional centres.