Resorts World Arena to become biggest in UK after £45 million revamp

Resorts World Arena will be able to hold bigger crowds than The O2 after plans to hugely expand the venue were given the go-ahead.

The venue, which currently welcomes crowds of just over 15,500, sits comfortably as the fourth largest in the UK, just behind Birmingham's other arena - the Utilita Arena in Brindley place, which holds a further 200 people. Both are dwarfed by London's O2 Arena and the Manchester Arena, which have 20,000 and 21,000 seats respectively.

The revamp, which will see up to £45 million invested in the complex, would make Resorts World Arena the largest arena venue in the country, boasting 21,600 seats - an increase of 6,000 on current numbers.

Borough councillors gave their backing to the expansion, although some were sorry to see the end of an era for the original arena - which opened its doors 40 years ago as Birmingham International Arena. It's had a variety of names across the years, including the Genting Arena and the LG Arena, but will be best known to thousands as the NEC Arena, a name that was used between 1983 and 2008. Cllr David Cole said:

"I'm sad that the iconic look of the current arena is set to disappear. When I come back from late-night council meetings, especially in the winter, it's lit-up quite well and the towers and the support structures do it justice."

The development will involve replacing the existing roof with a design that sits 10 metres higher than the current structure. Work is due to be completed in time for Birmingham's Commonwealth Games in 2022. Cllr Glenis Slater added:

"[The scheme] is very much needed if it's going to keep up with the other cities in this country, but there needs to be a serious look at how the surrounding roads coped with big events at the venue going forward."

Kim Allen, a council planning officer, said the plans had been scrutinised by Highways England because of the site's proximity to the M42. Her colleague, Ben Malin, added that the council had also been involved in discussions about the impact on traffic, with modelling suggesting there wouldn't be a "severe" impact. He told committee members that:

"It's also worth noting that [the application] for the improvements to the M42 junction was recently approved, which should then also ease congestion in and around that area in future."

Papers submitted to the council on behalf of the NEC Group argued the old arena had become outdated and the revamp would help the destination keep up to date with the demands of the biggest live shows.

160 jobs would be created on the construction project and up to 800 would be employed to work during the biggest events - almost a third more than at present. Cllr Richard Holt, chair of the planning committee, said:

"I think we've got a world-class venue here, whereby we should be proud of the international events we are able to host in our area. It's clearly a victim of its own success in that it needs more space."


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