SMG boss promises Leeds arena will be 'world class'

THE music industry boss who will oversee the running of Leeds's new entertainment arena pledged: "This WILL be a world-class venue."

Multinational company SMG was chosen by the city council as the preferred operator for the 12,500-seater facility.

SMG already runs more than 200 sport and entertainment venues across the US and Europe – including Manchester's MEN Arena and Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena.

But the firm's European managing director is confident the proposed Leeds development will put the rest of its empire in the shade.

Speaking at Leeds Civic Hall, John Sutherland told the YEP: "You're going to see an extremely impressive building coming out of the ground.

"This will be SMG's flagship for Europe and our international portfolio – something the city and its people will be very proud of. People on the margins, people living between here and Manchester or Newcastle, for example, will say 'I want to go to Leeds to see my concerts'."

Gigs by major league stars such as Kylie Minogue, Celine Dion and Leeds's own Kaiser Chiefs would be a vital part of the arena's programme, said Mr Sutherland.

But he also wants it to stage High School Musical-style family shows and sporting events like boxing or exhibitions by the Harlem Globetrotters basketball side.

The 50m arena should also be able to accommodate ice dance spectaculars with the use of a temporary rink.

SMG's UK and Europe arm is based in Manchester while its parent company's head office is in Philadelphia.

It was named as preferred operator for the Leeds project ahead of Live Nation, another of the music industry's biggest hitters.

Council leader Andrew Carter admitted the selection process had been a "difficult task" because of the high quality of the bids.

But he said: "SMG has a great track record and expertise in running arenas and it's fantastic to have them on board."

A final decision on the scheme's location and developer is not expected for around six months.

It is hoped private investors will plough about 30m into the arena, with another 20m being supplied by the public sector.

A significant chunk of that public funding is likely to come from the 51m windfall the council received from last year's sale of Leeds Bradford Airport.

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