WORK on the new Leeds concert arena is set to break significant new ground.
Diggers will move onto the multi-million pound scheme’s Clay Pit Lane site this Friday, council bosses have announced.
Around 12 weeks of advanced excavation work will then be carried out before construction proper gets under way in May.
Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member responsible for city development, said: “This is a very exciting phase of what is a hugely important £60m construction project for Leeds.
“The arena will bring an additional one million visitors to the city, add around £25.5m per year to the city’s economy and create around 450 construction jobs, as well as a number of apprenticeship and work experience opportunities.
“I cannot overestimate the part it will play in helping this city’s economy to continue to grow and attract investment and jobs.”
The milestone was also welcomed by Coun Andrew Carter, leader of the opposition Conservative group on the council.
Coun Carter, an instrumental figure in getting the arena scheme off the ground during his time as council leader, said: “I am delighted to see the heavy machinery going in, Friday will be a landmark date.
“When the arena is complete it will have a massive regenerative impact on the city.”
The council chose Clay Pit Lane - near the Merrion shopping centre - as the home of the arena project in late 2008.
Some preparatory work was carried out last year, with hoardings being erected around the site and sewers and drains diverted.
The stunning space-age look planned for the 13,500-capacity venue, meanwhile, was revealed by the Yorkshire Evening Post last summer.
If all goes according to plan, the arena should be open for business in early 2013.
The council’s preferred contractor for the main construction phase of the project is private sector building giant BAM.
Its past work includes Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium, host venue for last summer’s World Cup final.
Regional development agency Yorkshire Forward is contributing £10m to the cost of the scheme, with the remainder coming from the council.
Government spending cuts are not expected to have any effect on the project.