The way in which a future arena for Bristol will be designed and run is set to be decided by Mayor George Ferguson next week.

At a Cabinet meeting on Thursday 5 December the Mayor will consider options for an operator model to run the Bristol Arena. The council needs to appoint an operator to help to design and run the 12,000 capacity venue, which will be located in the heart of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, the city’s biggest regeneration project.

The cabinet report considers two main options:

  • Operator Lease – the arena would be leased to an operator who would pay a fixed annual rental, taking the risk on the level of income generated and sharing profits with the council above an agreed amount. The operator would programme and maintain the venue with the council having to negotiate any input into the programme.
  • Management agreement – the council would pay an annual fee to an operator to run the arena on its behalf. Council resources would be needed to manage the contract, programme the arena and maintain the building. Venue income would go to the council who would also be responsible for any losses.

Two other options were considered in the report; setting up an arms-length organisation to run the arena and the council running the arena itself, but both of these options scored less well when tested against deliverability, risk, benefits and the council’s objectives.

Mayor George Ferguson said: “This is a vitally important decision for the arena, setting out the best way to make it a reality and ensuring it is run in the most cost effective and suitable manner for the city. I want to ensure an element of city control over the arena, but it would be unwise for us to take on the full running of the facility and the risks that brings. Instead I’ll be considering ways for it to be run by an experienced, professional operator to make the most of the arena and the opportunities it brings.

“Without revealing too much at this stage, we’ve had considerable informal interest following the business study, which is extremely encouraging in terms of getting the right operator and best value.”

A clear funding package and budget approval will be required for the arena before an operator can be appointed, but next week’s decision is anticipated to allow officers to start preparing the necessary documentation for procuring an operator. A full report will go to Cabinet on 16 January 2014 outlining the funding arrangements for the arena before going to a Full Council decision as part of the council’s budget on 18 February 2014.

If a funding package is agreed in the New Year it is anticipated that operator procurement could begin as early as March 2014. Work could start on site in early 2016, with completion of the arena in 2017.