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Why Arena island is still the best location for Bristol's Arena

Jerome Thomas, deputy leader of the Green Councillors:

"In his blog published last week, Marvin Rees made clear his latest thinking on the arena location as he prepares to make a proposal on the future of the land at Temple Island in the cabinet meeting on September 4th. Based on what he continues to say, Greens and others, including many people in the Mayor’s own party remain concerned that Marvin is not acting in the best interests of the city.

These are the responses of Bristol’s Green councillors to the issues that Marvin raises.

 Marvin says:

1. “The proposed Temple Island arena is the most expensive build in the UK and all the money has to be borrowed, creating substantial public debt for the city.”

We respond that the Mayor’s own Value for Money study showed that the arena will pay for itself, will add no burden to the public purse, will not impact on council services and will leave the city with a significant asset. The Mayor has acknowledged on a number of occasions, and most recently on BBC Points West last Thursday, that an arena at Temple Island would be affordable for the city.

2. “The proposed Temple Island arena design is potentially not fit for purpose because…it is considered too small for world-class acts.”

We recognise that stadium fillers like Beyoncé will generally play UK stadiums not arenas. A Bristol arena with a capacity of 12,000 would host the same high quality performers as arenas in other UK cities. In his 2017 tour, among other arenas, Bruno Mars played Liverpool (11,000 audience capacity), Leeds (13,500) and Nottingham (10,000). Katy Perry’s recent UK tour included Newcastle (11,000), Liverpool (11,000) and Glasgow (13,000). Whether you like these singers or not, these are global acts and they’re representative of top billing arena acts across the UK. Take That are planning a 2019 UK tour. They told the Chris Evans Radio 2 Breakfast show that their concerts work better in smaller venues and this could rule out larger arenas.  Live Nation who run a number of UK arenas and who have bid to be the Arena operator at Temple Island have said that a venue for 12,000 is a sweet spot for audience size. Because a smaller arena will be fuller for more of the events, this will result in a better atmosphere than in a larger venue which might often be less than half full.

 3. “An alternative mixed use development including a conference centre on Temple Island would offer up to three times as many jobs and over twice the economic return for the city.”

My recent article shows how these numbers, which are being presented as facts, have actually been put together by the Mayor’s own members of staff, without any fact checking or verification. Bristol Green Party deputy co-ordinator Sandy Hore-Ruthven has also correctly pointed out, that there are plenty of sites around the city suitable for these kinds of mixed use development, so by putting these mixed use developments elsewhere, Bristol can have an arena on Temple Island and the economic benefit of mixed use development.

There has been recent speculation from a ‘council source’ in Bristol Live that the city’s current wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Saint Philips could be an alternative site for an arena. This speculation is interesting, but according to the Fruit and Vegetable Market’s own communications with the Council it would be at least ten years before the site became available. This speculation also raises the question of why this site wouldn’t be suitable for the Mayor’s favoured conference centre and hotel scheme.  

We continue to believe, using the Mayor’s own words, “when looked at in the round, and with open eyes to any risks,” that building the arena on Temple Island remains the right and best decision for the city. This is the decision we still hope that he takes on September 4th." 


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