THE second largest purpose-built entertainment arena in southern England could be built in Swindon as part of the redeveloped Oasis Leisure Centre, the Adver can reveal.
Moirai Capital Investments, the developer leading the £65m overhaul, originally planned to build a new 5,000-seater venue at the North Star site. But it has now revealed that contractors are drawing up plans for a 7,500-seater arena, making it the biggest in the south behind London’s 20,000-seat O2 Arena.
Company spokesman Peter Holmes said this was because a national operator, which has not yet been identified, is interested in running the facility and believes Swindon is well-placed to host a larger facility, drawing big audiences and hosting established acts.
Barr Construction, the owner of the London Olympics basketball stadium, and another contractor are working out how to configure the outer shell of the iconic building to make this possible, although no agreement has yet been made over Swindon getting the stadium.
Mr Holmes said that originally about one third of the structure was to be fitted out internally to create a multi-use arena, with the remaining third as a dedicated sports hall, but the new plan was to have the whole building as an arena, with the space sometimes used for sports.
He said: “The potential operator thinks Swindon can fill a larger arena and when you think of it, where are the nearest venues of that type to Swindon?
“There’s the O2 in London, and at the other end it’s basically Cardiff. And going north, you are into Birmingham before you get to anything of that size.
“There’s a huge area of the south of England which hasn’t got an arena of that size. So you can see Swindon as very well-placed.”
The Oasis development is expected to create 1,700 jobs, with the complete refurbishment of the centre and other mooted new facilities including an indoor ski slope, ice climbing wall and a hotel.
The plans will go on display at the centre tomorrow from 1-8pm and on Saturday from 10am-noon and 1-6pm.
Coun Keith Williams, Swindon Council’s cabinet member for leisure, said: “It’s going to be one of the great venues. People will come for weekends to see the great acts here and also bring the benefits for the hotels and knock-on benefits for the economy.”