Bristol Arena – A Golden Opportunity

When I was personally asked by Harvey Goldsmith CBE to try to arrange a meeting with the current Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, because he himself hadn’t been able to get hold of him, I thought it would be an easy job.

Harvey has serious American investors with a plan which means that it is possible the arena could be built in the city centre, without putting Bristol’s financial future at risk, so I felt it was at least something the Mayor should hear before he made his final decision.

I am not an expert on Arena development but both Harvey Goldsmith and his associates very definitely are.

Under no circumstances did I want to undermine the Mayor’s final decision, which at that point hadn’t been made, but felt that hearing what Harvey Goldsmith and his associates had to say was important for both Bristol and the Mayor himself.

There was a huge majority of city councillors in favour of the arena being built next to Temple Meads railway station, in fact as I understand it at 50-0 it was unanimous. I understand even Marvin Rees thought that Arena Island was the best location but had reservations due to the perceived financial risk to the city.

It seems the majority clearly want the arena situated next to the station, that much is clear from social media and beyond.

It seemed to me that if Harvey’s associates had a plan which de-risked the city and we had a site where over £20m of public money had already been spent and which was oven-ready with planning permission in place for the arena to be built it was surely a no-brainer.

The American Investors mentioned above are leading global experts in the field of both arena development and operation and would not be coming to Bristol to meet the Mayor unless they believed the city centre was clearly the best place to build it.

As I have already mentioned, my intention was to help give Bristol an option that wasn’t there before.

I am merely asking the Mayor to personally listen to what they have to say, nothing more, nothing less! Surely that isn’t a big ask? As I understand it, he did travel to Malaysia to meet YTL, the proposed developers at Filton, so why not receive investors from the USA when they are prepared to travel to his office in Bristol?

If having listened to and then analysed this latest proposal, the Mayor decides to stand by his decision that Filton remains the best option, then he will have at least shown further respect and consideration for both the City of Bristol and for a man who, together with Bob Geldof, delivered Live Aid, and factually saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives. Harvey Goldsmith has also promoted many of the world’s top acts, including The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Yes, to name but a few. Harvey knows what he’s talking about that’s for sure. He is the definitive world expert in this industry.

We live in a world where knowledge is vital so why not take onboard Harvey Goldsmith’s outstanding knowledge in the area of events and arena development?

Personally, my first choice remains to build the arena next to Temple Meads in the City Centre where the Arena would attract people from all over the UK and abroad due to its unique location next to one of the UK’s busiest railway stations.

I can confirm that a team from Los Angeles are on their way to Bristol and that a meeting has been arranged at City Hall this week but unfortunately we were told last night that the Mayor can’t personally make a meeting, which is a shame. Especially with potential major investors travelling long distances.

It has been a huge effort to set the wheels in motion and align many diaries, so I genuinely feel the Mayor should meet them personally rather than leave it to officers.

The fact that his decision has been called in for further scrutiny will now give him an opportunity to reconsider.

It is difficult to imagine another situation in any major UK city where international investors, who are considering investing hundreds of millions of pounds into a city centre over a long period of time, are not met by the top person in that city but that’s for the Mayor to answer not me.

After this week I am taking the sabbatical my doctors ordered months ago, following a serious operation, so will then step out of the picture.

I have done as much as I can and helped deliver major international investors right to the doors of City Hall. It is now up to the Mayor how he treats them.

Stephen Fear

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