Design & Development

Starting gun set to be fired on Cardiff arena project

The original concept for Cardiff’s new arena

Featured image credit: HOK

The original concept for Cardiff’s new arena

Featured image credit: HOK

Cardiff Council has said revised plans for a new 15,000-capacity indoor arena are now set to move into the delivery phase, with enabling works scheduled to commence in January.

The project – a circa £250m (€287.3m/$313.2m) investment into Cardiff Bay – is part of the overall Atlantic Wharf Masterplan, which is expected to create thousands of new jobs in the Welsh capital.

Cardiff Council’s Cabinet will discuss the funding strategy for the arena at its next meeting tomorrow (Thursday). The Council said Cabinet members will hear how the project is self-financing in the long term and will be recommended to sign the development and funding agreement with Live Nation, which will commit to the future long-term lease of the venue so that construction works can begin.

The Council has conceded that the project has been hit by “significant inflation”, but said Live Nation has agreed to cover the increased costs of construction, with the Council’s capital contribution to be fully recovered over the term of the lease.

The indicative timeline for the delivery of the new arena has been confirmed in the latest Cabinet report on the project. Following the start of enabling works, it is expected that the lease agreement between the Council and Live Nation will be signed in May or June. This will allow main arena construction to commence with a planned opening date set for late 2026.

Cllr Russell Goodway, Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, said: “Delivering a new indoor arena has been an ambition for successive Council administrations for over 20 years and was a key pledge we made at both the 2017 and 2022 elections.

“The report to Cabinet is significant as it clearly shows that the arena is deliverable and affordable, both for Live Nation and the Council. It is a significant milestone, on the complex journey to commencing building work, and means the project can now proceed at pace.

“The arena and wider masterplan are a significant investment into the local economy, kick starting the next phase of regeneration of Cardiff Bay, creating jobs and opportunities for local people while acting as a catalyst for further investment into this historic part of the city. It also forms the missing part of the jigsaw in Cardiff’s music offering, as identified within our Music Strategy.

“The arena will significantly increase the number of people visiting Cardiff for events and concerts, benefiting existing hospitality venues as well as the new developments that will be built as part of this regeneration scheme. The increased footfall will also complement the new METRO transport extension to Cardiff Bay, as well as improving Cardiff’s credentials to attract more and bigger events to the city.

“The current administration has made it clear from the outset that the council is committed to transforming this historic part of Cardiff into a leading UK destination for leisure, culture, and tourism, attracting more people to visit the city that we hope will stay for a longer period of time.

“The project did need to adjust following significant changes in the economic market conditions following the pandemic and I am delighted this has now been resolved and the final legal agreement is set to be signed, so the build can begin next year.”

The Council initially approved what was then intended to be a 17,000-capacity arena back in March 2022. However, it was reported in March this year that the budget for the project had risen to £280m, with the opening date for the venue also pushed back until 2026. The consortium behind the arena project originally included Robertson Group as developers, HOK as designer, and Live Nation and Oak View Group as joint operators, but it has now been reported that Populous has taken over design responsibilities from HOK.

The venue is ultimately expected to replace the 7,500-capacity Utilita Arena, which is operated by Live Nation. However, it was reported last month that the capacity of the new venue would be scaled back to 15,348 amid wider changes.