Live Nation, OVG and Robertson appointed for Cardiff arena project

Live Nation, Oak View Group (OVG) and Robertson have been rubber-stamped as the consortium that will deliver a new 15,000-capacity arena in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.

The appointment of Live Nation and OVG as operators, and Robertson as developer, follows the completion of the Full Business Case and a report to Cardiff Council’s Cabinet. The consortium had been selected as the preferred bidder to deliver a venue that aims to become the “premier arena” in the south west region of England and Wales back in November.

The planned new venue will cost around £150m (€175.7m/$206.7m) to build and is projected to attract more than one million visitors and inject an estimated £100m into the local economy every year.

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 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.

The report to Cabinet delivered yesterday (Thursday) seeks approval on the Full Business Case, the Development Agreement and associated legal documents to deliver the new arena and to formally appoint the consortium as the successful bidder.

Delivering a new indoor arena is widely regarded as the missing piece of city infrastructure needed to cement Cardiff’s international reputation as a major events city. It has been a long-standing ambition and aspiration shared by successive council administrations, which have retained a ring-fenced budget since 2006 to help make a private-sector led proposal, supported by the council, a reality.

The Full Business Case for the project is within an ‘affordability envelope’ for the project that was set out at the beginning of the procurement process. Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, Cllr Russell Goodway, said: “The city’s business community have backed the project for many years, particularly the hospitality sector.

“The new indoor arena will be a top tier UK visitor attraction and the financial benefits that it will bring to Butetown and the wider area will be significant – with up to 2,000 jobs created during the construction phase and a further 1,000 jobs in operation when the Atlantic Wharf masterplan becomes a reality.

“Through the Atlantic Wharf masterplan, significant improvements will be made to the public realm and to transport links, and there is no doubt that the regeneration of this site will kick-start the next phase of regeneration in Cardiff Bay.

“As we always do, we are working hand in hand with private sector to get this done. The Council’s aim has always been to deliver a tier one arena on a commercial basis. The Council has agreed to raise the funding, which will be recouped through a long term lease with the operators, guaranteed by their parent companies.”

The Council admits that the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that completing the Full Business Case has taken a few more months longer than originally expected, adding that it now anticipates the arena to be open for business by the end of 2024 rather than during the spring of 2024.

The Delivery Agreement will be signed with the consortium once it and the Council have met a number of conditions including securing planning permission. The revised timeline for delivery of the arena sets out for a planning decision and initial site works to begin in February, with a contract to be signed in March and construction to commence in April.

Graham Walters, chief operating officer of Live Nation (UK Venues), said: “We are committed to delivering a world-class arena with Cardiff Council and our consortium partners OVG and Robertson, that will offer maximum benefit to the local community and the wider region to create one of Wales’ key cultural locations and destination venues.

“Live Nation brings significant first-hand local knowledge from our long-standing operation in Cardiff for more than two decades and we will cement the new arena’s position as a pivotal centre for live entertainment with internationally renowned events.”

Tim Leiweke, CEO and co-founder of OVG, added: “I’m very proud that OVG is developing a new class of venue in some of the greatest cities around the world, and I’m delighted that Cardiff is joining that list. We’re excited to get to work with our partners Live Nation and Robertson to deliver a first-class arena capable of bringing the world’s best events to Cardiff.”

Images: Cardiff Council