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US firm in new Bristol Arena bid revealed

8 October 2018

UNCERTAINTY AGAIN hangs over the fate of a possible city centre arena in Bristol, following LIVE UK’s revelation last month that Harvey Goldsmith and local businessman Stephen Fear had stepped into the ongoing saga, backed by a mystery US venue operator.

Fear has now revealed that the Los Angeles-based backer is Oak View Group (OVG), headed by former AEG CEO Tim Lieweke and record company and artiste manager legend, and former Live Nation Entertainment chairman, Irving Azoff.

Fear confirmed that Lieweke attended a meeting in Bristol last month with city officials including Bristol mayor Marvin Rees’s adviser Kevin Slocombe, who previously worked as head of media for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He also reported that the meeting, at which neither Rees nor Goldsmith were present, was positive and the officials seemed keen on a city centre option.

Rees’s decision to cancel a long-planned 12,000-seat venue on Arena Island, adjacent to the city’s main train station Temple Meads (see LIVE UK issue 224) – to be managed by SMG Europe and Live Nation Entertainment, for a site in north Bristol is opposed by the majority of city councillors and national concert promoters, who favour a city centre location.

“We all agreed that the city centre was right place to build an arena, but not necessarily on the original [Arena island] site,” he says. “We remain hopeful that a city centre location will be the option all agree on.”

Since the meeting, Bristol councillors have launched a formal challenge to Rees’s decision, questioning whether the mayor had breached the council’s planning and constitutional rules. Although the challenge failed, Lib Dem councillor Anthony Negus accused Rees of ignoring the US-backed proposal, which was revealed to have been submitted as early as last June.

However, Slocombe is reported to have said OVG made “no offer whatsoever”, saying that, “It was agreed that Bristol City Council and the company would work together to investigate if there was any opportunity for that organisation to develop an arena in Bristol.”

A spokesperson for Bristol Council tells LIVE UK, “We remain committed to delivering an arena for Bristol. We continue to be happy to meet with any party who wishes to bring forward proposals for a city centre arena that would be fully funded by the private sector, and we are aware that [developers] YTL are now working hard to deliver their proposal for an arena at Filton [north Bristol].”

OVG was not available to comment as LIVE UK went to press.

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