New 8,000 seat Edinburgh indoor arena planned for Straiton site

Plans to build a new 8,000-seat indoor arena that will allow Edinburgh to attract some of the biggest names in pop to Scotland have been revealed.

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 1:01 pm
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 2:59 pm

The £40m development will see a proposed 30-acre site at Straiton, on the outskirts of the city, transformed into a mixed-use leisure and entertainment destination comprising the arena which will be complemented by conference and exhibition centre, retail and leisure space, a cinema and two hotels.

The land is close to, but not identical to, the site at one time identified as the possible location of a Scottish film studio. That film studio plan hit the buffers earlier this year because of a land tenancy dispute.

This new scheme is being spearheaded by Lothian Leisure Development Ltd, a UK based entertainment, leisure and sports venue consultancy, in partnership with the Birmingham based NEC Group.

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An artist's impression of what the Edinburgh indoor arena could look like.

The Edinburgh Arena development is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, beginning of 2024, bringing more than 600 new jobs to the area.

Announcing the venture, Dave Fowler, business development director at Lothian Leisure Development, said: “These exciting proposals showcase the modern, indoor arena that Edinburgh deserves, and with operating partner NEC on board the capital is assured a pipeline of the world’s greatest entertainment talent.

"We also look forward to applying many of the other aspects of the hugely successful NEC Campus to Edinburgh in due course.

"We see this as a revolution in entertainment provision for one of the world’s most cultural Capitals - and one which will benefit all sections of the community.”

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NEC Group, which already operates two indoor arenas in Birmingham, is supporting the Lothian Leisure Development bid to progress the scheme proposals to the full feasibility stage and will be responsible for the management of the arena including event programming, hospitality, commercial rights, catering and ticketing once planning permissions are in place.

Phil Mead, Arenas and Ticket Factory Chairman at NEC Group says, “We host over 700 events per year in the Birmingham area and have always planned to take our successful events model to new cities with the backing of our majority shareholder, Blackstone.

"We are already looking forward to opening the redeveloped Bradford Live venue in 2021 and are delighted to now confirm our partnership with LLD which will hopefully see us manage our first venue in Scotland.

"Edinburgh is well known for its wonderful cultural offering but remains one of the only European capital cities without an indoor arena and so we’re excited by the thought of being able to bring some big names in entertainment to the region.”

Operators hope the venue which will be seen as a much-needed addition to the Capital and complement Edinburgh’s current cultural and entertainment venues while providing a significant tourism boost for the area.

The plans have received a positive response from Edinburgh-based music promoter Mark Mackie of Regular Music.

Mackie, who also promotes the annual Castle Concert series at Edinburgh Castle, says, “A venue offering audience capacities between 5,000 to 8,000 will dovetail nicely with the existing facilities in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

"We eagerly await the opening when we look forward to presenting a varied range of artists.”

Dave McGeachan of Scottish concert promoter, DF Concerts, adds, “These days it is rare that a Capital city doesn’t have an Arena, so this is a long awaited and positive addition to the Scottish entertainment market.”

Lothian Leisure Development is currently in discussion with several parties to secure funding for the development phase of the project.

Over the coming months LLD and the NEC Group will be working closely to progress the proposals to full scheme design stage and to carry out a series of public consultations.

The Arena is the brainchild of Lothian Leisure Development Chairman, Edinburgh entrepreneur Tom Ponton who added, "When I was young, back in the 50s, Edinburgh had the Waverley Market where they held the Ideal Home Exhibition, the Funfair evert every Christmas and the Scottish Motor Show, we are now at 2019 and Edinburgh does not have such a facility in the city for such events. As the chairman of a new Scottish company determined to deliver the best arena in Scotland and the only one not subsidised by the public purse."

Ponton, who was born and brought up on the Royal Mile and served 23 years in local government in the Capital, is joined on the board of Lothian Leisure Development by Nick Brown, formerly of international architects AHR Global and Dave Fowler, who has 25 years in the music and entertainment industry working for the likes of Walt Disney, Sky, Universal and Ministry of Sound among others.