Derby Arena: New £27.5m venue set to open in March

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DERBY’S new £27.5 million Arena is due to open in March but no final date has yet been given.

The news comes in the midst of a political row over news that the venue will run at a loss for at least its first three years in operation, meaning public money will be spent to help keep it open.

Councillor Alison Martin said subsidising its running costs were part of the plan with the idea being to ensure that using its gym, cycle track and other facilities would be affordable for the public.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Joe Naitta said that when he was cabinet member responsible for leisure, in 2008, the plan had been to be running at a profit after two years.

He said: “That would have been due to sponsorships, plus gate receipts from cyclists, events being held there and use of the gym.

“The latest figures are disappointing and I really feel the council has messed up by not making enough bookings by this point.”

The leader of the Conservative opposition, Councillor Philip Hickson, said the Liberal Democrats were naive when they worked on the project.

He said: “The Lib Dems were only ever interested in delivering a Velodrome and had a naive view that this would work. The Conservative Group were and remain of the view that this was never a viable business model. We did not accept that the project could run at a profit unless the venue was capable of holding major events and concerts.”

A statement from Mrs Martin said that the projected council spend on the venue in its first three years would be £6,570,000, and the income £4,435,000 – a loss of £2,135,000.

That gap is predicted to have gradually closed over the three years from £835,000 to £595,000.

The forecast is based on assumptions including the Arena hosting 12 events a year.

Mrs Martin said the Liberal Democrats needed to produce the 2008 business plan they were referring to.

She said: “If they were to run it at a profit that would put the accessibility of it in jeopardy.”

Mrs Martin said: “The business plan is designed so that it will have a subsidy to begin with and that subsidy will decline year on year.

“The aim, of course, is to reduce the subsidy to as low a point as possible.

“The issue is that this is one of the city’s leisure facilities and the pricing structure for it is the same as other leisure facilities in the city.

“It’s part of the council’s policy to provide people with the service in a financially affordable way. That is something we believe in the Labour group.”

The city council had previously been saying the Arena would open “early this year”.

In her statement, Mrs Martin said: “The aim is to open the Derby Arena by the end of March.

“Plans are being put in place to have a launch event during March, involving some cultural and sporting activities.

“There will be a ‘come and try it’ weekend during March and a national badminton event.

“The building will then be fully open as long as the above events and activities have gone well.”

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