Derby Arena - the city’s latest sporting facility

The Arena

The Arena - Credit: Archant

Geoff Ford pays a visit to Derby Arena prior to its opening

The Arena

The Arena - Credit: Archant

If you have driven through Derby’s Pride Park you cannot have missed the stunning structure of the new Derby Arena. Clad in its striking Olympic-medal livery of gold, silver and bronze, the Arena appears like a giant extra-terrestrial craft that has landed next to Derby County’s i-Pro Stadium. Set to open early this year, the Arena is the home of Derby’s new velodrome and multi-sports facilities.

Councillor Alison Martin, Derby City Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, is delighted with the result. ‘I think it’s an absolutely stunning and iconic building for the city,’ she says. ‘It’s a magnificent venue, it’s been completed on-time and on-budget and it should represent a fantastic sporting and cultural venue for the people of Derby and Derbyshire.’

Heage-based business Bowmer and Kirkland have built the £27.5 million venue, handing over the keys to Councillor Martin in October as the finishing touches were applied and the systems and procedures checked. Once it opens, the Arena will be the premier sporting venue in the city for the public and sporting clubs to use, and far more than just the highly publicised cycle track.

‘This is a new leisure centre for people in Derby, so there will be a range of sports you can do there including badminton, netball, volleyball, table tennis and trampolining,’ says Councillor Martin. ‘There are dance and exercise studios, and a new 50 station gym. It is a multi-sport arena and it’s important that people understand that, it’s not just a velodrome. However, it does have this unique feature of having the cycle track, so it should attract people from all over the region. We have already had interest from all over the country because of the cycle track.’

Councillor Alison Martin

Councillor Alison Martin - Credit: Archant

Derby will have the only velodrome in the Midlands, one of only five in the country and the interest the council has received has come from both individuals and clubs. The 250m indoor cycle track is suitable for individual, club, school, group and business track sessions, track leagues, and local, regional, national and international track events. The cycle track itself is made out of Siberian pine and designed by VeloTrack, the German world-leaders in cycling tracks who are also responsible for Manchester Velodrome, home of the National Cycling Centre. The steepest angle of the track is 42°, and Cllr Martin says it looks very exciting. ‘It’s quite a skill to ride on one of those tracks. You can ride round at the lower level and I’m told that, with the training, it does become possible for even the ordinary cyclist to go round it. For those who are not already dedicated track cyclists, and many of us aren’t, you will be able to turn up at certain times and there will be bikes for hire.’

The council will wait for the venue to settle in before they hold any major cycling events, but the hope is that the venue will stage national and international meetings, with a capacity for 1,500 spectators. British Cycling have been involved in the plans for the Arena and both Olympic gold medallist Sir Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky boss Sir David Brailsford have spoken out in support of the venue. ‘Sir David lives locally and he has been very supportive. I think the level of excitement created by the Tour de France coming through Britain was really quite inspiring, and there is a lot of excitement about cycling at the moment. We are keen to promote cycling in the city.’

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Cycling has, indeed, captured the hearts of the nation, spurred on by Sir Bradley’s heroic efforts in 2012, his Olympic gold medal following a first-ever British success in the Tour de France. The scenes at the Yorkshire départ to the 2014 Tour were astonishing and the Derbyshire section of the following day’s Stage Two was equally well supported. What impressed me most was the sheer numbers of cyclists (most in replica cycling outfits) who turned up with their cycles to take advantage of the road closures and ride part of the stage. Looking back to the, sadly infrequent, visits to Derbyshire by the Tour of Britain, the 2005 Derbyshire stage was, by some accounts, the best supported of the race.

The council are also keen to promote the Arena’s capability to host other large events, utilising the unique infield area. Councillor Martin explains: ‘The infield is a big area, sufficient for 12 badminton courts. What is unique is that the cycle track has been raised up to the first floor so that you can have ready and easy access to the infield area below the cycle track. To hold events of this nature we need to develop a programme over time. These events would take over the use of the arena, with time to set up, but definitely televised events. There is no programme yet. We are talking to people who may be interested in coming.’

‘We would also like to hold concerts there,’ she continued. ‘The Arena has a 5,000 maximum capacity, with people standing in the infield, or 3,500 if we use seating. The amount of people can vary according to the event. Whilst we will be holding concerts there, it is primarily a community sports venue, so we are probably aiming to hold only twelve concerts a year once it is up and running. However, there has been a lot of interest from other people who want to book it for community events, and for conference and corporate events. There is a hospitality suite and a large studio that could be used for business conferences. So there will be a whole range of events that could be held there, but the programme will be put in place over the next six months or so.’

Would the Arena be able to fill the gap created by the Assembly Rooms fire?

‘It was always going to offer something that the Assembly Rooms couldn’t. The Assembly Rooms had a capacity of 1,200 and so you couldn’t hold very large concerts there. The Arena has the lighting and equipment for performances and concerts that are loud, but is not necessarily equipped for drama performances. It was always intended to be a different type of venue. It is a good point that with the loss of the Assembly Rooms we might see other kinds of events going in there that would have been held at the Assembly Rooms, possibly large functions that people used to hire the Assembly Rooms for, or for performances that don’t require an intimate space.’

At present the council is also looking at the naming rights to the Arena. It will retain the Arena name, but the council would be interested in potential sponsorship, similar to Derby County’s i-Pro Stadium at Pride Park.

Derby’s Moda Bicycles have supplied the 100 track bikes available for hire, each in the Arena’s corporate livery. There would normally be 1,179 parking spaces available, shared with the i-Pro, although this would be just 79 on match days. The council has promised, though, that there will be no events timed to clash with Derby County’s home games.

Accreditation to use the 250 metre track will be completed in four training stages – a total of six hours – at a cost of £65. Although Derby residents with an adult leisure card will pay just £52. The card would be renewable annually at a charge of £5.

Track admission following accreditation will cost £12.60 for one hour or £10.50 with the adult leisure card. The hire of a track bike, or tandem, will be £6.50 for an hour, with free helmet hire but no discount, though other offers may be available from time to time. The prices are competitive with those of similar venues.