First Direct Arena

Photographs courtesy of: Giles Rocholl, Severfield and Paul White Photography

Client: Leeds City Council

Venue Operator: SMG Europe

Design & Build Contractor: BAM Construction Ltd

Architect: Populous

Structural & Accoustics Engineer: Arup

Structural Steelwork Contractor: Severfield

Building Envelope Contractor: Lakesmere Ltd

Tata Steel products: ComFlor® 60, ComFlor® 51+, Kalzip® TF800R, Kalzip® perforated aluminium

The challenge

Located in the heart of Leeds, the first direct arena is a 13,000 capacity, internationally acclaimed, multi-purpose venue built for live music and entertainment which is anticipated to bolster the local economy by staging over 140 events each year.

Operated by SMG Europe, the first direct arena was a design and build project delivered for Leeds City Council within a budget of some £60 million by the main contractor, BAM Construction Ltd with architect, Populous.

Based on the design of ancient Greek amphitheatres and influenced by its sloping site, the venue is the UK’s first purpose-built arena incorporating a fan-shaped seating bowl layout. Despite its huge size, and unlike other UK arenas, the semi-circular auditorium provides a surprisingly intimate experience with performers and audience feeling more connected as a result of their close proximity and the perfect sightlines available from each seat.

The solution

In order to achieve the long spanning requirements of the design and the desired speed of construction, a structural steel frame solution was specified. Tata Steel won the competitive tender to supply all the steel plates and sections based on reliability, customer service, high product quality and ability to meet the project’s tight build schedule by delivering on time.

A cost-effective, attractive cladding solution for the rear of the arena was provided by the horizontally profiled Kalzip® TF800R aluminium façade system. Kalzip® perforated aluminium standing seam system was installed as an external rainscreen cladding to neatly conceal the M&E equipment located above the rear of the stage area.

Acoustics was a key driver for the design engineering of the building overall, and of the roof in particular. Although designed as a profiled steel floor deck with exceptional spanning capabilities, ComFlor® was chosen to form the base of the external roof. The ComFlor® deck provided a cost-effective, quick-fit roofing solution with minimal slab depth for fire design purposes.

The first direct arena received the prestigious accolade of ‘New Venue of the Year’ at the Stadium Business Awards 2014. It has achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating and is Britain’s most sustainable arena.

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