First Direct Arena

  • Leeds
  • 2013

CHALLENGE. The First Direct Arena is a multi-purpose facility capable of seating 12,500 people. The varying activities and occupancy levels required a flexible design which could be easily operated to meet the changing requirements of a diverse event schedule. The design intention was to create a rewarding experience for spectators & participants – maximising revenue generating potential, while achieving a strong identity, sense of fun and celebration of the facility.

INNOVATION. Users are much closer to the action in the theatre style arena, with the rear seats being approximately 70m from the event focal point. The tighter spatial configuration allows opportunities to control the atmosphere and acoustics of the performance, optimising spectator comfort, convenience, safety and security. The arena also has 24 hospitality boxes, several restaurants that operate throughout the week, and a flexible entrance area that can be used as a winter garden. The building incorporates the latest thinking in terms of sustainability and attained a BREEAM Very good rating, making it the UK’s most sustainable venue. The design up to RIBA Stage D was undertaken with Jacobs.

IMPACT. An arena has been long requested by residents in Leeds. The venue is located in the city centre and has become the focal point of the regeneration of the city quarter. Part of the development includes a new public space which has formed the primary entrance to the arena. The First Direct Arena opened in the summer of 2013 with a Bruce Springsteen concert, followed by an opening season featuring Elton John, the Kaiser Chiefs and Micky Flanagan. The First Direct Arena was awarded a RIBA Yorkshire Regional Award in April 2015.