The sale of “naming rights” for a new 12,000-capacity concert arena in Edinburgh could mean the facility will be built without any money from the public purse.
City council chiefs have revealed that a drive is to be launched to secure a headline sponsor for the new facility, which is expected to be able to attract high-profile artists such as Beyoncé and U2, as well as events including international boxing matches, tennis tournaments and even auditions for TV show The X Factor.
The proposed location next to Edinburgh Airport is expected to prove lucrative to potential sponsors as it would provide an opportunity to make their brand visible to air passengers as they arrive in the city.
And it is hoped that a naming rights deal between the sponsor and landowner, New Ingliston Limited (NIL), together with a “pre-let” agreement with the eventual operator of the venue, could help fund the cost of building the facility, estimated to be up to £36 million – although the council may provide funding for the upgrade of roads and pavements around the venue.
Details of the funding arrangements emerged today as new images were unveiled showing how the completed venue would become an iconic feature within the proposed new “Edinburgh International” district. Landowner NIL is working with the consultants International Venues to assess the opportunities for a “private sector-led scheme”.
Dave Anderson, director of city development at the council, said: “We are saying to International Venues and New Ingliston to work together on a private sector solution to construction and operation. Once we have an agreement, there may be potential for capital funding to improve the public realm of the area outside.
“Title [naming] rights are highly marketable because every time a new band is announced the name is on the tour schedule and a prominent site in west Edinburgh means you can get exposure there. What we would want to see is that the brand was of inter-national quality.”
The new venue would have a permanent seating capacity of up to 5000 but standing areas would mean that the capacity could rise to 12,000.
It is estimated that 3.1 million people live within 60 minutes’ travelling time of the proposed site. But Mr Anderson believes the arena would not directly compete with Glasgow’s SECC. He said: “You look to bands that do the circuit of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield – bands that come to Scotland could do an Edinburgh and a Glasgow gig.”
Interest in a “pre-let” of the venue has already come from a collaboration of US venue operator Global Spectrum and the NEC Group music promoter. There is also pre-let interest from SMG Europe, which operates venues including the MEN Arena in Manchester, Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle and Odyssey Arena in Belfast.
It is estimated that the sale of naming rights could bring in around £2m per year, while a pre-let agreement could be worth up to £1.1m a year.
Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “A new multi-use venue in the right part of the city is key to attracting more concerts, larger conferences and other events to Edinburgh. Work we commissioned shows the need is clear and that the city could sustain a medium to large-scale facility.”