Swansea Arena chief confirms profit share progress
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Swansea Council will get a share of the profits from the Swansea Arena in due course, in addition to rent and a percentage of ticket sales, the venue’s director has confirmed.
Lisa Mart, of Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), told a group of councillors that rent and ticket share contributions had been paid to the authority since the arena opened last year and that the profit share arrangement was being worked on.
The council largely funded the construction of the 3,500-capacity arena, which Mrs Mart said had proved large enough for acts which then went on to play at bigger venues in Manchester and London.
“The first year has been an absolutely great success for us,” she told the council scrutiny panel.
Mrs Mart conceded that the number of ticketed events was lower than originally planned, but she added that initial forecasts had been made before the Covid pandemic in what was “a very different world”. She also said that ticket sales were higher than expected.
Mrs Mart said conferencing and events at the arena “have gone absolutely through the roof” and that feedback about the sound quality and back-of-house facilities was especially complimentary.
ATG employs 26 full-time staff at the venue and has around 100 casual staff and seven cleaners on its books. There can also be as many as 75 security staff on busy event nights.
Mrs Mart told the panel that there had been some queuing issues at the bar, and that ATG perhaps “underestimated how much people in Swansea enjoy the opportunity for a drink”.
The panel also heard that traffic light sequencing at the adjacent car park exit onto Oystermouth Road had been altered to allow more cars out on event nights.
Mrs Mart was asked if the arena competed with established venues in Swansea like the Grand Theatre and Brangwyn Hall, and whether the new-look Albert Hall, on Cradock Street, might take away custom.
She said certain events, particularly high-profile comedy acts such as Jimmy Carr, would move from established venues to the arena. She added that she held monthly meetings with the council to try to avoid clashes with other event spaces, and that ATG had turned down some artists. “We are very keen that the right artists go to the right venues,” she said.
Mrs Mart said she reckoned the 800-capacity Albert Hall would, when it opened, add to the city’s live event offering and give up-and-coming acts a place to develop.
Asked whether live acts were keen to come back to the arena, she said this was the case, citing the return last Friday of rock star Alice Cooper – this time with his band Hollywood Vampires rather than in a solo capacity.
Mrs Mart said arena energy costs were much higher than expected, although the council had agreed to subsidise some of them, and that some snagging issues with the building remained.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration, events and tourism, said he was pleased with the arena’s overall performance and that all live venues in Swansea worked to the benefit of the city.
Panel convenor, Cllr Chris Holley, said the arena, which cost around £48 million to build, was a “huge investment” and of “enormous interest” to people.
The arena was the key element of the wider £135 million Copr Bay scheme, which includes flats, commercial units and a multi-storey car park the other side of Oystermouth Road.
The panel was told that work to rectify defective paintwork on the steel in the multi-storey car park should be completed by the end of 2023 – a year later than had been indicated by the council in September, 2022. On the plus side, the commercial units are expected to be handed over to tenants in the next month.
Councillors also heard that there was demand for office space being created by the council at the former Oceana nightclub site on The Kingsway. The new building up rising up from the site, said Huw Mowbray, the council’s regeneration strategic manager, was “really, really high class” with upper floor views of the sea and Mumbles beyond.
Mr Mowbray said he expected the new building, known as 71/72 The Kingsway, would be completed around the end of March, 2024. The council is also steering a major office-led scheme on land from Oystermouth Road up towards St Mary’s Church.
Mr Mowbray sought to allay councillors’ concerns that companies didn’t want offices in a post-Covid world. “The decline of office space is overstated,” he said.
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