Edinburgh arena proposals that failed to take centre stage

Edinburgh proposals for a new arena which failed to materialise
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With proposals put forward last week for a new 8,500 capacity music arena at Edinburgh Park, we’ve taken a look at previous failed attempts to build a large music arena in the Capital.

AEG which operates the O2 Arena in London, has earmarked a vacant site north of the Edinburgh Park tram stop and railway station for the latest proposed music area in Edinburgh. If approved by the council, construction work for the arena could begin in early 2025 for a planned opening sometime in 2027.

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However, over the years there have been many proposals for a top-class music arena in the city, with music fans appealing for years for Scotland’s Capital to have a large arena like Capital cities all over the world. And elsewhere in Scotland there is the 14,300 capacity Hydro in Glasgow and P&J Arena in Aberdeen which can hold 15,000 music fans.

An artist's impression of Lothian Leisure Development Ltd's planned 8,000 capacity indoor arena at Straiton, which was submitted in 2019 but has never progressed.An artist's impression of Lothian Leisure Development Ltd's planned 8,000 capacity indoor arena at Straiton, which was submitted in 2019 but has never progressed.
An artist's impression of Lothian Leisure Development Ltd's planned 8,000 capacity indoor arena at Straiton, which was submitted in 2019 but has never progressed.

Leith Docks

Plans were put forward in 2004 to build a 5,000 seater arena at Leith Docks by Forth Ports, as part of a £80 million plan for music, hotel and casino developments at the old port. The site of the MTV Europe Music Awards at Britannia Quay was earmarked by port executives for the large development, which it was hoped would be built within five years. A hotel with up to 300 rooms and a 150,000sq ft "resort casino" were also mooted for the land next to the Ocean Terminal shopping centre. It was thought that the concert arena would be mainly seated and capable of being adapted for events such as boxing matches. Those behind the plans had originally looked at building a 10,000 capacity arena at the site but later scaled back the plans to be “realistic”. Unfortunately this proposal never got off the ground and no arena was ever built in Leith.

Straiton

In 2019, Lothian Leisure Development and NEC Group published a proposal to build a 8,000 capacity music venue and conference space at Straiton in Midlothian. The location of the original proposal for an 'Edinburgh Arena', which would also include a conference centre, retail and leisure space, a cinema and two hotels, was a 30-acre site in greenbelt land near the Edinburgh City Bypass and Straiton Retail Park. However, the plans never got off the ground and no big music acts set foot on stage in Straiton.

An aerial shot of Leith Docks taken in 2002, just two years before plans were mooted to build a 5,000 capacity music arena there.An aerial shot of Leith Docks taken in 2002, just two years before plans were mooted to build a 5,000 capacity music arena there.
An aerial shot of Leith Docks taken in 2002, just two years before plans were mooted to build a 5,000 capacity music arena there.

Ross Bandstand

The Ross Development Trust proposed to rebuild the current bandstand building built in 1935 as a Ross Pavilion based on a design by architects wHY following an international competition in 2017. Disappointingly, these plans have never seen the light of day and the current crumbling building remains in place. However, large concerts for up to 10,000 people including the Hogmanay Concert still take place there with a temporary stage structure built over the pavilion.

The Dunard Centre

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The £75 million city centre 1,000 capacity concert hall was approved in 2019, the first new concert hall in Edinburgh for more than 100 years. A variation to the planning application was approved by the council in 2021. However, this highly anticipated new venue off St Andrew’s Square, currently under construction, is not large enough to accommodate the music acts locals are desperate to see coming to the Capital.