OPERATORS of the Sheffield Arena are gearing up to improve the building and parking as competition from Leeds edges closer.
In particular, they want to capitalise on what they see as a key advantage for the Attercliffe complex – the access by road.
Plans are being drawn up to make better use of the Don Valley Bowl to so that more drivers arriving from the west do not get snarled up in the gyratory system in front of the Arena. And that would relieve some of the congestion for drivers coming into Sheffield from the M1.
“We are trying to focus on our unique advantages, which are access, parking and transport,” said Steve Brailey, chief executive of Sheffield International Venues.
“We are five minutes from the M1, we have a tramstop and we have dedicated parking, which we think we can improve further.
“Sometimes there is a bottleneck around the gyratory system. We are looking at making it easier for people to park so that when they are going into a concert or other event they are stress-free.”
Another idea is that when customers buy a ticket, they know where they are going to park, “and there is less stress about finding a parking spot”.
The 12,500-seat arena in Clay Pit Lane, Leeds, is due to open next year, although SIV is not aware of any opening date and believes no acts have yet been booked.
Civic leaders in Leeds say there will be enough demand to have two arenas, and believe there are large numbers of people in East and North Yorkshire who are currently being deterred by long journey times.
However, SIV is concerned by research indicating the Sheffield building, which has a capacity of 13,000, could lose up to 25% of its business
The company and the council have been angered by Leeds receiving a £10m Government grant towards the £80m project, which is just 34 miles from the Sheffield venue.
“We need to make sure that anybody who has a choice between Sheffield and Leeds, such as people living in Barnsley or Wakefield, come to Sheffield because it is an easier journey, rather than going through the nightmare of battling through the middle of Leeds,” said Mr Brailey.
Sheffield is also trying to up its game by making improvements to the Atterclife building, which is run by specialists Live Nation on behalf of SIV.
Proposed improvements include new seats and doubling the width of the internal concourse to open up more options for the sale of food and drink and for ‘break out’ areas for conferences.
“It obviously costs quite a lot of money,” said Mr Brailey. “We are trying to pull a funding package together and examining all options with the council.”
He said the Arena’s performance over the past year had been “pretty good”, following the best in its 21-year history. The next year was looking “strong”.
He added: “We are pretty confident about the medium term. It’s in the long term that we might struggle.”