Poll: Calls for multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena to be built in Ipswich
16:35 09 October 2014
A multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena should be built in Ipswich, it has been claimed.
Nick Drane, head coach of Ipswich Basketball men’s side which is storming up the national league, has called for borough council chiefs to seriously consider creating an indoor sports and entertainment complex.
Similar entertainment and sports complexes across the country attract global music stars and act as a hub for a range of local sports clubs, as well as providing facilities for business conferences and educational classes for schoolchildren.
They create hundreds of jobs and boost the local economy, but the borough council questioned the sustainability of the idea, saying it would cost more than £10million.
Mr Drane said 350 eager basketball fans squeeze into the school gym at Copleston High School for his side’s home games – but insists they could draw up to 2,000.
He said: “There’s going to come a time when somebody with enough authority is going to come to, or read about, one of our games and see that, if we can get 350 people in a school gym, what could we do if the council or the town were to build an indoor entertainment centre?
“I’m not asking for a basketball arena to be built; we are just asking for someone to come and have a look and anyone with sense will see the value in an indoor event centre in the town. We are cramming 350 people into a school sports hall. Someone has to look at it and see this could be so much more.”
John Clough, director at Suffolk Sport, said the need for a large, indoor multi-court spectator venue in Suffolk has long been recognised.
He said: “The provision of such a facility would be of enormous benefit to the county, both in terms of opening up the opportunity of attracting major events in a number of sports but also in terms of the potential boost to the local economy that such events would provide.”
An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said the authority spends around £1.5m on providing sport and entertainment opportunities every year at sites including the Regent, Crown Pools and Fore Street Swimming Pool.
He said: “We are already working with Sport England to look at an indoor sports strategy for the town, and while we always welcome suggestions to improve our town and appreciate this suggestion, it is our view that, at this time, substantial investment by taxpayers in such a proposal would not be appropriate – even if a location for a new multi-purpose arena could be found.
“Realistically, a multi-purpose arena would cost well in excess of £10m and would have substantial annual running costs associated with it.”
What sport, entertainment and events arenas do other towns and cities have in England?
First Direct Arena, Leeds
The £60m arena opened in September last year after a decade-long campaign by the local newspaper and residents to build a multi-purpose venue in the city. It has a capacity of 12,500 and Sir Elton John and Rod Stewart have already headlined concerts. It is also designed to hold conferences, exhibitions, comedy events, family shows and sporting events including boxing, tennis, basketball and Premier League Darts.
The entertainment and sports complex opened in 1991 and is home to the Plymouth Raiders – one of the country’s leading basketball sides which regularly sells out its 1,480 capacity seating complex. Singers including Kylie Minogue, Jessie J and Kanye West have performed in front of 4,000 fans, while it also has an ice rink and facilities for corporate hire.
The £10m is home to many local sports clubs – including badminton, cycling and gymnastic clubs – conferences and a top-class tennis facility in its 6,000 capacity venue, which opened in 2001. It also has seven-a-side football pitches and a 400m running track, and meeting rooms for conferences and comedy gigs.
It boasts an Olympic-sized ice rink and is the home of all ice hockey sides in the city. It has a seated capacity of 3,150 and is also a renowned concert venue, with Robbie Williams, Oasis and Ed Sheeran among the artists the arena has attracted. It has also hosted televised darts tournaments and boxing bouts. It opened in 1988.