The funding package for Bristol’s arena was agreed at Full Council today (18 February) as part of the Mayor’s capital budget. Work can now begin to appoint an operator to run the planned 12,000 capacity venue, which will host large scale music and other spectator events, due to open in 2017.

The council is set to invest up to £91 million to build the arena, with around £38 million being funded by operator rental and other related income once the arena is built and £53 million being borrowed via the City Deal Economic Development Fund, managed by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

George Ferguson Mayor of Bristol said: “This is a real milestone for the city region following many disappointments in the past. An arena for Bristol has been one of my top priorities. As a mayoral candidate I was determined to put this back on the agenda and I have seen a huge groundswell of demand and support for such a development. Bristol is the only major city in the UK without a facility of this scale and with the funding package now in place we can at last move forward to make an arena for Bristol a reality, taking advantage of learning from other cities’ experiences to deliver the best possible venue.

“The arena will sit in the heart of the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone next to Temple Meads station and will be a major catalyst for the regeneration of the area. With great transport links and the planned electrification of the London to Bristol line it can be expected to bring a wide audience to Bristol and local residents will no longer need to leave the city to see their favourite artists and shows.”

The net cost of the arena to the council is likely to be no more than £15 million, depending on the success rate of building up the City Deal Economic Development Fund from new business rates over the next few years. In other cities where arenas have been built, tens of millions of pounds of additional money has been brought to the city regions each year from business activity, hotel stays, visits to restaurants and other related activity.

The funding was agreed as the owners of the ‘Arena Island’ site, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) commission contractors Sisk to start work on the new bridge and infrastructure connecting it to the surrounding area.

The HCA is investing more than £11m in the provision of this new bridge to unlock the former Diesel Depot site. Work will start on clearing the ground in the next fortnight, with the major structural work on the bridge commencing in May of this year.

David Warburton, HCA head of area, said: “Our investment in new infrastructure will play an important part in unlocking the largest cleared site in the Enterprise Zone to enable significant new development and investment and help make the vision for an arena a reality. Preparatory work for the bridge and the other infrastructure will start within the next few weeks and we are looking forward to playing our part in this hugely significant addition to Bristol’s economic and cultural landscape.”