Edinburgh ditches plans for ‘Hydro’ concert venue

Stars such as Prince are flocking to play at the Hydro. Picture: Getty

Stars such as Prince are flocking to play at the Hydro. Picture: Getty

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AMBITIOUS plans to build a world-class concert arena on the outskirts of the Capital have been shelved amid fears the project would face a funding shortfall of up to 
£100 million.

Industry experts have long lamented Edinburgh’s lack of suitable venues for major international acts – such as Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Prince and Fleetwood Mac – many of whom choose to perform their Scottish tour dates in one of Glasgow’s four stand-out 
arenas.

But studies aimed at creating a new multi-use venue on a stretch of land between Edinburgh Airport and the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Gogar headquarters have concluded that costs would far outweigh any return. It was hoped the new concert space – which could double as a conference centre or an indoor sports arena – might rival Glasgow’s £125m Hydro which opened last September.

Two venue operators drew up blueprints for seven options – with arenas ranging in capacity from 7000 to 12,000 – but all were frozen due to a “very large funding gap”.

Music experts expressed disappointment the arena vision for the west of Edinburgh had been scrapped but insisted a state-of-the-art concert hall requires a location in the heart of the Capital, not on the fringes.

Mark Mackie, manager at Regular Music – one of the biggest promoters in Edinburgh – said the city had fallen “very much behind” its rivals.

“Because we are the Athens of the North during the month of August, Edinburgh has maybe been a bit complacent,” he said.

“There is room for something else in Edinburgh and the city has been crying out for it for years.”

Mr Mackie also said west Edinburgh was inaccessible and too far from the city centre to become a much-loved venue.

Echoing his views, former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay said the proposed location was perfect for the Highland Show but ill-suited to large concerts.

“The area out near the airport isn’t Edinburgh,” he said. “It might only be a few miles from the Maybury but it’s 100 miles as far as concert-goers are concerned.

“The reason the Hydro works well is that it is in the middle of Glasgow.”

Mr Findlay said the city was “desperate” for a new concert venue and suggested plugging gap sites on Leith Walk with Edinburgh’s version of the Hydro.

And he claimed Princes Street Gardens could mimic the success of the outdoor Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

He said: “It would have to be a multi-purpose venue because you can only host a limited number of concerts each year and it wouldn’t add up.

“The Hydro is a good example of what we should be aiming for. It’s stunning – a beautiful proper international-class venue. It’s something any city in the world would be proud of.”

Culture convener Councillor Richard Lewis said other firms were still driving forward with proposals for a concert venue elsewhere.

He said: “The council identified a need to look into the gap in Edinburgh’s cultural infrastructure for a medium to large-scale music venue.

“Following a feasibility study on the development of a 
self-financing events venue in west Edinburgh, funding for this in partnership with New Ingliston Ltd is currently uncertain.

“The council is aware of interest from a number of other parties in developing a multi-use venue in Edinburgh, and we will continue to engage with interested parties to support any feasibility studies that arise.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com