Major events arena 'crucial' for Wales, says minister

Adele, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and Simone Biles Image copyright Getty Images/BBC
Image caption Wales will hope to attract major attractions like Adele concerts, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and the world gymnastics championships

A 15,000-capacity multi-purpose arena in Cardiff is "crucially important" for Wales attracting more major events, Economy Minister Ken Skates has said.

Cardiff's Principality Stadium holds 74,000 and Motorpoint Arena holds 7,000 but the government wants a venue in between for sport and music events.

Wales wants to stage the BBC's annual Sports Personality of the Year ceremony as well as other major events.

"It is well recognised that Cardiff needs a bigger arena," said Mr Skates.

London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield all have big arenas while Bristol has a £92m venue planned,

The Welsh Government wants to ensure south Wales can compete with other areas of the UK for major music concerts and sporting events.

Cardiff council acknowledge it is a "major priority" and Russell Goodway, cabinet member for investment and development, said: "We intend to bring forward our plans in the next few months."

London, Manchester and Birmingham, for example, are hosting Lady Gaga on her 2017 world tour while the recently-opened Glasgow's SSE Hydro hosted star American gymnast Simone Biles at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship.

Image copyright Geograph/Jaggery/MickLobb
Image caption Cardiff has a host of arenas that includes the Motorpoint, Principality Stadium and St David's Hall

The government's major events team, which helped bring football's 2017 Champions League and Ashes cricket Tests to Cardiff, want a venue capable of staging similar events.

Any new arena would also be used to host Commonwealth Games events such as gymnastics and boxing, if Wales does plan to bid.

"There are proposals in Cardiff," said Mr Skates.

"An arena is going to be crucially important for Cardiff in particular, but for Wales as well, capturing new and more major events.

"In the council and neighbouring authorities, that's well recognised now. That's a piece of work that needs to be taken forward, they know it and we are in discussions with them."

Callaghan Square, near Cardiff Central railway station, has been suggested as a potential location for any new indoor arena while the Cardiff Blues rugby region also wants to build a 15,000 arena as part of a £150m development of the Arms Park in Cardiff city centre.

"There are large events, such as Sports Personality of the Year, which we'd love to host," added Mr Skates.

"We'd need an arena if we were to host Sports Personality. The spec that is required doesn't exist at the moment."

Image copyright ICC Wales
Image caption The new International Convention Centre in Newport is to open in 2019 and will be able to host up to 5,000 delegates

The Welsh Government and Cardiff council are said to be exploring a number of funding options.

A 5,000-capacity International Convention Centre Wales will open at Celtic Manor in Newport in 2019 while Swansea are planning to build a 3,500-capacity arena on Oystermouth Road as part of a £500m city centre redevelopment.

"The important point to make is if there's three facilities along the M4 corridor, they have to be complimentary and can't be competing with each other," Mr Skates said.

Welsh music promoter John Rostron, co-founder of Cardiff's Swn festival, applauded the government's vision but said a "first step" should be a smaller "dedicated, not-for-profit music venue" from which revenue could be reinvested back into the Welsh music industry.

"It'd give the agents, promoters and wider music industry more confidence in a capital city that doesn't currently have a supporting infrastructure that can develop music acts or assure audiences at that kind of level," said Mr Rostron.

"Cardiff has a huge gap between its one 1,500 capacity venue and the 7,000 capacity of its current Motorpoint Arena. I'd aim for an Arena, but fix that gap in order to secure it can deliver."

Pablo Janczur, director of Cardiff-based Orchard Entertainment, added: "I would support calls for a larger scale arena but as a multipurpose venue with conferencing facilities. This could prove a real benefit by stimulating more tourism and investment."

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