Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham's NIA 'sky needles' divide opinion

The needles at night
Image caption The needles will be switched on permanently on 2 December when the arena fully opens

Three structures on Birmingham's National Indoor Arena have been called a "waste of money" by some residents.

The "sky needles" were lit up in a ceremony on Friday and will be illuminated permanently from 2 December.

The steel needles form part of a £26m redevelopment of the arena, funded by a loan from Birmingham City Council.

NEC Group, which runs the arena, said it hoped the needles would eventually become a symbol of the city.

'Incredibly unimpressive'

However, some residents said the installations looked like "phone aerials".

Paul Merrick wrote on BBC WM's Facebook page: "What a waste of money", while Stephen Walton described the needles as "totally and utterly pointless".

Each needle stands at a different height, similar to a medal podium. They are said to symbolise the arena's sporting history.

The tallest of the three structures is 26m (85ft).

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Matthew Hudson-Smith, who switched the needles on, said it was an "honour" to have been asked.

"They look fantastic," he said.

Image copyright S Heavey - British Athletics
Image caption Athlete Matthew Hudson-Smith (right) says the needles look "fantastic"

Rachel Campbell-Johnston, chief art critic for The Times, said: "Looking at the photographs, the sky needles look incredibly unimpressive.

"One of the things that really makes a landmark is how it stands out from its environment - that's where the sky needles fail.

"The only thing I can say is that you can never ever know with these landmarks, they take on a life on their own.

"If people turn it into something that's part of their daily life, they may take off."

Phil Mead, managing director of NEC Group Arenas, said: "The presence of the iconic sky needles will enhance Birmingham's skyline and make the arena an instantly recognisable landmark."

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