Across the road from where I work the Leeds Arena is starting to take shape. Now I’ll admit that big venues are not really my thing but there of course times when the band you want to see will have outgrown the pubs and clubs and will have hit the big time and so need bigger venues to play in. The fact that a city the size of Leeds does not have such a venue has, I think, been a bit of an embarrassment but as you can see from the picture I snapped on my phone recently that’s about to change.
There are a few things that I think are pretty brave about this, first and foremost is that it is happening at all. As everyone will be aware large scale building projects are scarce on the ground and funding is being heavily cut from the public sector. Leeds City Council has stuck to it’s guns on the Arena and is funding the overwhelming majority of the project, creating jobs and hopefully a great venue for the city. Then there is the location as it’s in the city centre, yes I know that the inner ring road is going to get clogged up but it’s hardly fast flowing system at the moment and too be honest is on it’s last legs. If we want to have lively and vibrant centres then we need to continue to create places within them that people want to come to and the Arena will do that. I’d far rather that and be able to choose my pre gig drinks or meal from the wide variety the city has to offer than drive out to some big shed near a motorway junction.
Finally I think the design is brave, most large venues are based on the big rectangular shed but the Arena has taken it’s lead from classic greek and roman entertainment venues – the amphitheater :
This means the sight lines are better, people are closer to the stage and the atmosphere should be fantastic. Any band coming out and facing 13,500 in this configuration is going to be blown away, I don’t think there is another venue like it in Britain. This design means that while it can be flexible to a degree it is not trying to be all things to all people – it is clearly a concert venue or super theatre and it’s not trying to be a sporting event as well. If you are going to do one thing do it well and whether or not the venue turns out to be a success I for one applaud the bravery of it.