Two tycoons in race to build Leeds arena

THE FIGHT for the right to build the new concert arena planned for Leeds has come down to a face-off between two of the city's leading business people.

Jan Fletcher and Peter Gilman are the millionaire tycoons behind the rival groups left in the race to be named arena developer, papers released by the city council revealed today.

It is understood that if Ms Fletcher's Montpellier Estates firm gets the nod, she would take the 12,500-seater complex to a 10-acre site she owns at Sweet Street in Holbeck.

Former Leeds United director Mr Gilman's GMI company is thought to favour building the 50m arena on land adjacent to the Elland Road ground.

Ms Fletcher and Mr Gilman were selected by the council following a procurement process that started in summer last year.

A decision on which of the two to back is due to be taken at a meeting of the local authority's executive board next Wednesday.

Today Coun Andrew Carter, the city council's deputy leader and executive board member for development, said: "We are as determined as ever to deliver an arena for Leeds. I have always said it is a priority for us.

"I'm very pleased that we are now close to announcing a decision."

Music industry giant SMG was named as the council's preferred arena operator in May. It is hoped private investors will plough about 30m into the scheme, with another 20m coming from the local authority and other public sector sources.

Next week's board meeting will, however, also look at the likely value for money offered by the Fletcher and Gilman proposals compared to a hypothetical scheme wholly funded by the public sector.

The results of that assessment could in theory see the two selected bidders being asked to re-tender – or even lead to the developer procurement process starting again from scratch.

Experts estimate an arena would be worth as much as 28m a year to the Leeds economy.

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