For those of you expecting Bristol’s new-fangled Arena to be open just in time for the Strictly and X Factor tours next year, then I have some very bad news for you: it’s been delayed to, I think, the 12th of Never.
My sympathies are with mayor Marvin Rees for whom the excuses are mounting up. From tonight’s Bristol Post, here is what Marvin actually says:
“I intend to deliver the arena during 2019 but until we have agreed a cost and timeframe with the preferred building contractor I can’t give a more accurate estimate.
“We have come a long way with the project and now have a site, a design, planning permission, an operator (who is already receiving interest from acts) and a preferred building contractor. However the difficult bit is ahead of us – to build it on a site neighboured by two elevated railways, a busy road, and a river, on a former diesel depot.
“We have also grown the project and are now looking at the regeneration of Temple Meads East and with that comes cost pressures and choices. An arena will bring millions of pounds of investment to the city, jobs and opportunities for our citizens but I’m very aware that great opportunities are never quick or easy.”
Now I am not blaming Marvin for this shambolic state of affairs because he has only been in office for a few months, but couldn’t someone else see this coming a long way down the track, someone like Marvin’s useless predecessor George Ferguson? For it was Ferguson who promised the Arena would be ready in what is now a couple of months, yet when I pass by the area, as I did this morning, there was precious little evidence – none, actually – that work has started on the thing.
Lest we forget, Bristol is facing massive cuts in spending over the next few years and I fear what might happen if it comes to a choice of priorities. Marvin Rees will know by now the beyond critical state of social care in the city and I am sure other services are at a similar level.
I rather like the idea that the mayor is having a long hard look at the whole project given the expenditure involved. For all manner of reasons, not the least of which are the new jobs an Arena would bring, I want it to go ahead, but I never believe anyone, even politicians I really like, when they talk in dates.
I am in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” camp due to Bristol’s feeble record in major projects. I believe in Marvin much more than the red trousered buffoon who preceded him but things are shaped by events, almost always unforeseen ones.
Anything could have happened by 2019. We will be out of the EU, the economy will probably still be suffering “turbulence” and the Euro will probably be worth twice what the pound is. A million possibilities hang over the Bristol Arena and I have the feeling that when they stop hanging they may sink it.