A consortium led by US entertainment company Live Nation has been selected as the preferred bidder to deliver a new 15,000-capacity indoor arena in Cardiff Bay that aims to become the “premier arena” in the south west region of England and Wales.

The announcement was made at a Cardiff Council meeting on Thursday evening, with plans for the partnership fleshed out today. The planned new venue will cost around £150m (€167.6m/$199.8m) to build and is projected to attract more than one million visitors and inject an estimated £100m into the local economy every year.

The Council has stressed will also deliver new jobs for local people, with over 2,000 jobs created during its three-year build programme and, once up and running, another 1,000 direct jobs and a further 600 jobs supported in the local economy.

In December 2019, Cardiff Council’s Cabinet granted approval for the Council to purchase the Red Dragon leisure complex in Cardiff Bay, part of the package of land intended for the arena. The Council said securing control of the site provided all of the land it needed to build the new facility.

From this point, the Council progressed a procurement process to secure a private-sector partner. It said two offers were received, with the Live Nation consortium, which also includes development partner Oak View Group (OVG) and construction company Robertson, selected.

Live Nation currently operates the 7,500-capacity Motorpoint Arena in the centre of Cardiff, which is ultimately expected to be replaced by the new venue. Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “We remain committed to delivering a new indoor arena and today we have taken a big step forwards.  

“We believe the new arena will have a similar impact on Cardiff Bay, as St David’s 2 had on the city centre. It will act as a major catalyst for the next-phase regeneration of Cardiff Bay delivering new jobs and opportunities where they are most needed.

“It will also help with the case to improve public transport links to Cardiff Bay and will provide the impetus for a complete re-imagining of the Red Dragon Centre area. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity for Cardiff, especially as we look to emerge from the economic damage of the pandemic.

“I know there will be voices asking ‘how can the council afford to be involved in a project like this at this time’, that’s why it’s important they know that this is a private-sector led proposal which the council is supporting. That means the private sector will be covering the lion’s share of the costs and taking the vast majority of risk associated with delivering this project.

“The Council’s capital commitment will be less than 15% and could be significantly lower by the end of the process, and instead we will use the strength of our covenant to enable our partner to access funding at a more affordable rate.”

The Council initially granted permission for detailed design works to commence on a new indoor arena back in November 2018. The Cabinet yesterday approved a report which authorises the preparation of the final detailed designs and costs before entering into a development contract in the summer.

Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, Cllr Russell Goodway, said: “The arena will be located in close proximity to many of Cardiff’s most disadvantaged communities and we want those communities to benefit from the job opportunities which will become available.

“The council has secured commitments that jobs and training will be available for local people throughout the construction of the arena and also when it is open for business. There will be a key focus on helping the unemployed into work and engaging school leavers through new entrant, apprenticeship and graduate employment opportunities. It’s really important residents benefit from this project.”

With a seated capacity of 12,000, the new Cardiff Indoor Arena will also have a strong focus on sustainability and will aim to become one of the greenest venues of its type in the UK. Initially it will benefit from low-carbon heat produced through the planned District Heat Network and further work will be undertaken to achieve the aim of a net carbon zero development across the wider Atlantic Wharf regeneration area.

Goodway said: “The city’s strategy is to establish the Cardiff Arena as a top tier UK arena and to make it the premier arena in the south west region of England and Wales.

“Sound Diplomacy – the internationally-renowned advisors on the music industry – believe the arena will also become a fundamental component of Cardiff’s ‘Music City’ strategy. They say it will have ‘a positive impact at all levels of the live music ecosystem from the grassroots venues to our major spaces’ and it will support the development of a home-grown industry.”

Commenting on the announcement, a spokesperson for Live Nation, Oak View Group and Robertson, the developer and operator consortium, added: “We look forward to working in partnership with Cardiff Council to bring this ambitious vision to life over the next few years. 

“Our combined experience in the delivery and operation of facilities of this nature will result in a world-class facility that will bring economic benefits to the entire region, both during its construction and for many years to come once it’s open.

“In 2021 we will embark on the next phase of the planning process which will provide the wider community the opportunity to see our exciting proposals for the site.”

The new arena is expected to open in time to host its first event in February 2024.

Images: Cardiff Council