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Cardiff Bay arena on track to open by 2024

The delivery of a new 15,000-capacity indoor arena in Cardiff Bay will move a step closer when Cardiff Council appoints its preferred bidder at a Cabinet meeting scheduled for the 26th November.

The planned new venue will cost around £150m to build and will attract more than one million visitors and an estimated £100m into the local economy every year. It will also deliver new jobs for local people, with over 2000 jobs created during its three-year build programme and, once up and running, another 1000 direct jobs and a further 600 jobs supported in the local economy.

Since December last year the Council has progressed a procurement process to secure a private-sector partner and has now received two offers to deliver a top tier UK venue that will enable events of all sizes to be hosted in the city.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “We remain committed to delivering a new indoor arena and today we have taken a big step forwards. We believe the new arena will have a similar impact on Cardiff Bay, as St David’s 2 had on the city centre. It will act as a major catalyst for the next-phase regeneration of Cardiff Bay delivering new jobs and opportunities where they are most needed. It will also help with the case to improve public transport links to Cardiff Bay and will provide the impetus for a complete re-imagining of the Red Dragon Centre area. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity for Cardiff, especially as we look to emerge from the economic damage of the pandemic.

“I know there will be voices asking “how can the council afford to be involved in a project like this at this time”, that’s why it’s important they know that this is a private-sector led proposal which the council is supporting. That means the private sector will be covering the lion’s share of the costs and taking the vast majority of risk associated with delivering this project. The Council’s capital commitment will be less than 15% and could be significantly lower by the end of the process, and instead we will use the strength of our covenant to enable our partner to access funding at a more affordable rate.”

Cardiff Council’s Cabinet will receive a report on Thursday, November 26, when it will be recommended to appoint a ‘preferred bidder’ for the arena and to authorise the preparation of the final detailed designs and costs before entering into a development contract in the summer. Cabinet will also be asked to approve the acquisition of a number of additional pockets of land needed to facilitate the development. If the report is agreed, details of the ‘preferred bidder’ will be announced shortly after.

Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, Cllr Russell Goodway, said: “The Arena will be located in close proximity to many of Cardiff’s most disadvantaged communities and we want those communities to benefit from the job opportunities which will become available. The council has secured commitments that jobs and training will be available for local people throughout the construction of the arena and also when it is open for business. There will be a key focus on helping the unemployed into work and engaging school leavers through new entrant, apprenticeship and graduate employment opportunities. It’s really important residents benefit from this project.”

Despite the effect COVID-19 has had on live music and entertainment, the two bidders – two of the largest Arena operator/promoters in the world – are both extremely confident of the long-term resilience of the sector. The sector continues to show confidence for the future with new arena developments continuing to be announced and tickets still being sold for future events.

Cllr Goodway said: “The city’s strategy is to establish the Cardiff Arena as a top tier UK arena and to make it the premier arena in the south west region of England and Wales. Both bidders have been keen to progress the proposals at pace which means the new Arena is aiming to be open by 2024. Both bidders are confident of a full return to live entertainment well in advance of this date.

“Sound Diplomacy – the internationally-renowned advisors on the music industry – believe the arena will also become a fundamental component of Cardiff’s ‘Music City’ strategy. They say it will have ‘a positive impact at all levels of the live music ecosystem from the grassroots venues to our major spaces” and it will support the development of a home-grown industry.”

The new Cardiff Indoor Arena will also have a strong focus on sustainability and will aim to become one of the greenest venues of its type in the UK. Initially it will benefit from low-carbon heat produced through the planned District Heat Network and further work will be undertaken to achieve the aim of a net carbon zero development across the wider Atlantic Wharf regeneration area.


  • 15,000 capacity
  • 12,000 seats
  • £150m to build
  • 1m visitors a year
  • 140 estimated events a year
  • £100m generated for local economy per annum
  • 1500-2000 jobs during construction phase
  • 1000 Arena jobs when open
  • Create 600 jobs locally