Plans to open a huge new arena in Bristol have been rumbling on for many years, but 2022 could see some real progress as construction begins.
Proposals were first unveiled more than 18 years ago, and since then there have been controversies, including when an initial plan for a Temple Island arena near Temple Meads was scrapped.
But developers YTL officially got planning permission in 2020 for a huge new stadium at Filton Airfield.
The developers are now set to begin construction in 2022, and there is every indication that plans to open the arena by 2024 are on track.
The arena will be part of a massive new development which will also see thousands of homes and a train station at the former Brabazon hangars, among other things.
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And according to the developers, the arena could become an exciting new space to host major events in the city.
Here’s everything we know about the Bristol arena so far.
When will it open?
The developers say they have made “great progress” despite a lack of construction on site.
Andrew Billingham, chief executive of YTL Arena Bristol, wrote a blog post in November 2021 confirming that construction will start in 2022.
Mr Billingham wrote: “Now we turn our focus to 2022 and all the exciting things we have coming up next. We’ll be beginning the demolition and construction phase, as we prepare to transform the Brabazon Hangars into a next-generation entertainment venue.”
In 2020 YTL cited ‘mid 2021’ as the time frame for building works to start, but that was before the opening date was pushed back from 2023 to 2024.
What will it be like?
At 28,000m2, the floor space of the Brabazon Hangars – where the Concorde was built – is more than twice the size of a large football pitch.
YTL has confirmed how it will be arranged:
- Central Hangar: The 17,080 capacity, multi-purpose arena auditorium. It will be able to host live music shows, sporting events, family entertainment and comedy shows. On the ground floor there will be the Runway Bar, covering the entire width of the central hangar with capacity for 3,000 people
- East Hangar: The Festival Hall. This will be a floor space for trade shows, exhibitions, conventions and other events
- West Hangar: The Hub. This is where arena visitors will be able to “eat, work and play”, YTL says. The 365-day a year venue will have room for leisure, food, drinks and workspace
A November blog post from the arena’s chief executive Andrew Billingham confirmed that the venue will offer “premium memberships” to be launched in spring 2022, which he said offer “exciting perks such as pre-sale tickets, discounts on food, drinks and hospitality experiences, and the chance to win free backstage VIP experiences”.
YTL say the arena will be the “the world’s first arena to be built inside aircraft hangars”, and it will be the fourth largest in the UK when it opens.
And a train station being built on the site will travel to Bristol Temple Meads in less than 15 minutes once construction is completed, and will form part of the Henbury Spur line.
What events will happen there?
The developer has said it was not able to share any information publicly just yet about any of the acts that have made enquiries so far, or when it might look to start marketing the opening events.
But in an interview with Bristol Live in January, Andrew Billingham said: “We expect to have around 130 live events a year, not just music, but sports, comedy, family entertainment, things like the Strictly Come Dancing tour.”
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Mr Billingham has also revealed that the Brabazon hangars have been used in 2021 as the backdrop for television shows, with both Netflix’s sci-fi adventure The Last Bus and Amazon Prime’s teen spy thriller Alex Rider filming scenes there.
YTL also say that their service yard will be the “biggest in Europe”, offering 15,000m2 of space to accommodate the needs of production managers, promoters, trucking companies and everyone else involved in putting on a show.
Money invested into community
YTL will invest £3.1m into the local community as part of a Section 106 deal, which is money developers give to councils and other authorities to improve community facilities as a condition of their planning consent.
YTL chief executive Andrew Billingham has also said that once operational, the arena complex will create more than 500 jobs, with employees receiving a living wage.
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