It’s in our nature to love our home city. Sometimes we love it for its familiarity, and that can give us mixed feelings when we see its face changing. A century ago, in the early 1920s, many residents of Wembley Park were horrified by plans to build a national stadium on their doorstep. It’s not always easy to visualise the benefits new developments can bring, but by the time the original Wembley Stadium was taken down and rebuilt after hosting an Olympics, the Live Aid Concert, a football World Cup final and several thousand more major cultural and sporting events, its local, national and international value was unquestioned.
Swansea is a thriving tourism and hospitality destination. Come here once and you’ll want to come back. How best can we capitalise on that in the 2020s and beyond? Council leader Rob Stewart has championed the indoor arena now under construction in the city centre, and it promises to open the door to huge cultural and commercial gains.
Visitor spending in Swansea has always been event-driven. Success stories such as the Wales Airshow and the Admiral Swansea Bay 10k repeatedly showcase our city and coast. Two years ago the BBC’s Biggest Weekend brought more than 50,000 people to Singleton Park over the May Bank Holiday. Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift may have attracted most headlines but the event also brought talented local artists to the attention of a huge audience.
The new arena promises to give Swansea the same advantage as a destination of choice for indoor events. A 3,500 capacity venue with 36 adjoining flats, 15 retail units, a hotel and a multi-storey car park will offer multiple attractions and revenue streams. It will help us build a bridge to visitors of all ages. Millennials are an influential and lucrative target audience. How can Swansea attract them? One in five millennials – both female and male – watch competitive gaming. A venue that makes an ideal location not only for traditional concerts and conferences but also for large scale gaming events speaks to this audience very persuasively.
The last decade saw visitor spending in Swansea exceed £400 million per annum. In a hugely competitive market we can slip back or we can move forward. The Swansea Arena offers us an opportunity to move decisively forward. It’s expected to create 600 new jobs and attract 270,000 new visitors a year. And to those who question whether the new venue will be large enough to attract major performers, we’d just like to point out that the Swansea Arena will have exactly the same capacity as Manchester’s O2 Apollo Arena. Lewis Capaldi is playing there tonight and tomorrow. And yes, both nights are sold out.
It’s not easy to look at a patch of ground and see the flowers that will grow there. But they will grow there, and soon. It’s time to celebrate that.
It’s time for Swansea to step into the arena.
We’ll be discussing all this and much more at the upcoming Swansea City Centre Conference on Tuesday 31st March. Have you registered yet? Click here for your FREE ticket.