Why Bristol City need a new stadium

17 01 2012

Footballer Scott Murray took to Twitter and then the airwaves yesterday to advocate the need for not just a new stadium for Bristol City at Ashton Vale, but an arena to be built alongside it. His campaign began after the news that campaigners who want to block the building of the new stadium have been given permission for a judicial review hearing.

The process will further delay the club’s plans to build their new stadium (right), focusing on whether the council registered village green status for part of the Ashton Vale site in a lawful manner.

This month, Bristol Ice Rink has been given the last rites and Gloucestershire CCC have been refused planning permission to develop their Nevil Road cricket ground, with talk that the club may have to move outside Bristol in order to continue to host international cricket.

A planned 10,000-seat arena for Bristol was abandoned in 2007, despite the now-disbanded South West Regional Development Agency spending £13m purchasing and clearing a nine-acre site for the arena near Temple Meads.

Murray took to Twitter (@scotty_murray) yesterday morning after the judicial review appeal was granted, just the latest in a long list of setbacks for stadium supporters.

“Well it looks like a small minority are desperate for bristol to stay in the dark ages been here 14 yrs and everything is still the same,” went his first tweet.

“And that don’t just mean the shambles of a decision about the city stadium am speaking about all sports including rovers attempts as well.”

The former Scotland B international (left), now plays for Bath City as well as working in the commercial department at City.

He added: “This is one of if not the best city in the uk let’s catch up with the rest before its too late.”

His impassioned, if not grammatically correct, ranting soon got him on BBC Radio Bristol, and very quickly picked up support citywide, with a few tweeters even suggesting that the 37-year-old should stand as Bristol’s first elected mayor.

“We need the facilities in this region improved badly not just footy or were gonna be the laughing stock for a long time to come sort it out,” he wrote after a busy day of re-tweeting and responding to many other people who took to Twitter in order to share their own feelings about Bristol’s future development, both sporting and cultural.

The frustration among many is that Bristol City Council are holding  the city back. “I dont want to be known for just combine harvesters, I want Bristol to be known for great arenas, great sports stadiums etc,” wrote Tom Leat.

Andy Hall said: “Only in Bristol could a few dog walkers prevent thousands of jobs and facilities for the whole of the south west.”

Murray was still at it yesterday evening: “Even though am a massive red I feel sorry for the gas as they have been and still are playing in a stadium that’s well past its sell by date.

“This aint about being a red or a blue this beautiful city needs a massive revamp in all sporting facilities from bottom to top.”

Former world champion boxer Jane Couch also got stuck into the debate, with specific emphasis on the need for an arena which could host high-profile boxing bouts in Bristol among other large-scale events.

An arena could be built at Ashton Vale next to the new Bristol City stadium. The diverse profile of events that this arena could hold is exemplified by the Nottingham Arena, in a city which is smaller than Bristol in terms of population but shares many similar characteristics, including two universities, two football teams and a county cricket team.

But they have a 10,000-capacity arena (right), and we don’t. In their arena over the next few months will be Strictly Come Dancing Live, Snow Patrol, The X Factor tour, Florence & The Machine, Dancing on Ice, Blink 182, Michael McIntyre and Noel Gallagher. Regardless of personal taste, it is unlikely that any of that lot would ever play in Bristol because we have not got the facilities to host them.

I dislike seeing music in arenas. The passion is often sucked out of a band that may be so far away that you watch most of the gig on a big screen. But Bristol is losing out to Cardiff and Birmingham, our two nearest arenas, and missing out on the biggest events.

Elton John played at Nevil Road in 2010, and Westlife and Jon Bon Jovi have played at Ashton Gate over the last two summers. But those are big one-off outdoor gigs. The Colston Hall is normally our one chance in Bristol of watching some of the bigger acts on tour, but not the biggest, unless like Lee Evans they decide to play a smaller, more intimate show. A damning indictment of a city without an arena.

Scott Murray has brought this debate into sharp focus. It is now up to the city council and a few judges in London to decide whether Bristol should have the facilities, the stadiums and the arena, that our city badly needs.


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7 responses

17 01 2012
Ninder

I agree with everything you are saying. I really am perplexed by the councils, past and present, resoning to not develop this city and bring it up to date.
And don’t get me started on the mess they are making of blackboy hill and whiteladies road.

17 01 2012
Josh

As sad as it is, it makes complete sense for GCCC to move out of Nevil Road, the site’s just not big enough for a world class venue with parking and good transport links.

As for the City stadium, I couldn’t care less. Why should Bristol City be given any kind of financial or planning regulatory preference for a new stadium when Bristol Rovers need exactly the same thing?

Frankly, all I’d say is that I wouldn’t want it anywhere near my back yard and neither would I want public money poured into it. Would it be nice for Bristol to have it, hidden away in some corner near Bedminster? Sure. Does Bristol need it to be competitive in attracting big performers and celebrities? Probably, but who really cares about all that.

17 01 2012
thebristolblogger

The title of the article is “Why Bristol City need a new stadium”. The argument is that we need a new arena. The conclusion is that this is “up to a few judges in London”.

Nuts.

18 01 2012
Chris Brown

Well I’m the total opposite of Scott Murray, i.e. a blue not a red, but it’s hard to disagree with anything he says/tweets – as a city we are so way behind comparable sized cities (and smaller ones) it’s painful, having said that, not being able to stage X-factor is not surely not a bad thing?

19 01 2012
mapreader

A football ground with poor public transport links/roads on edge of town does not equal a central, covered arena; you are arguing for two separate things, as pointed out by bristolblogger. Old enough to remember the early 1990’s; Lord Gowrie arriving in a helicopter from London (what symbolism) to steal the ring-fenced lottery monies for our Class 4 concert hall, so that the massive overspend on the Royal Opera House rebuild wouldn’t become a political issue. Why do you think @bristol has a large and expensive underground car park (which floats below the water table- even more expensive!)? It took another 10 years to recover from that punch and get the Colston Hall out of the 1930s.

Read “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis about how baseball teams in the US used the same arguments about jobs, regional development, prestige, etc. to build a stadium (with land given to them by city councils…). It’s almost play-for-play description of why Bristol City ‘need’ a new ground. Worth reading the results too, e.g. “Thousands of jobs” created. There will be a few hundred (possibly) when it is being built (but the vast majority will be outside contractors- unless Bristol has a surfeit of stadium erectors), after that? A few security bods (maybe?), some more merchandise stalls on match days, some more minimum wage jobs.

I’m happy if Bristol City want their new ground. But… I don’t live in Ashton Vale, and find the most vociferous critics of the delays also appear to live nowhere near there either. Also, the upturning of due process that the City Council went through to get it approved last autumn IS worthy of judicial review. Replacing the committee at the last minute, jeez, that was scandalous. From my knowledge of the dog-walking problem, it is Bristol City’s legal representatives on the Town Green investigation that have some questions to answer (wonder why the BEP never comment on Bristol City’s own representation about the length of time it was used as a ‘Town Green’?).

Not a Nimby, not a Rovers fan.

19 01 2012
mapreader

Sorry to reply to my own post, but just in case you think I’m making this up, a citation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/leisure-music-on-the-waterfront-sets-new-bristol-fashion-1241218.html

“The centre will feature a 2,300-seat concert hall with state-of-the-art acoustics and a 450-seat dance theatre”.

May not be an arena, but it sounded amazing. We’d pretty much be on the A-/B+ gig circuit. Don’t remember there being an enormous uproar over it. Wonder why?

20 01 2012
Josh

@mapreader – it’s been obvious from the start that Bristol City have wanted a new station, and that they’re looking to get it with significant support from public funds. This is understandable – why wouldn’t they try?!

I’m friends with someone who was on the committee for the ‘new’ secondary school back in 2005 ish. Remember that debate? Whether it should be in Redland (the easier, cheaper option) or Stoke Bishop (the far more practical but big NIMBY option).

There were 4 members of the committee that opposed the plan of situating it in Redland and this was known amongst the committee members before the final formal meeting. Then, 30 minutes before the meeting, one of the other committee members passed around statements that said the 4 opposing members were implicated financially – i.e. they were seeking to profit from the decision.

By magic, 4 new committee members were brought in with 30 minutes notice and voted for the school to be in Redland.

Planning proposals : As bent as it gets.

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