SMG Finally Inks Leeds Deal

Nearly 18 months after winning the contract to run a new arena in Leeds, SMG has inked a 25-year deal with the local authority.

Having secured the contract ahead of competitors the Yorkshire Post identified as Live Nation, AEG, Global Spectrum and Logistik/ GL, there have been delays as the venue became the U.K.’s most controversial arena.

Leeds City Council just released a statement saying the SMG deal had been signed, although that’s the second time that’s happened.

The original agreement signed shortly after SMG won the contract made provision for a third-party developer, which needed to be amended when the local authority opted to take that role itself.

The Leeds arena project originally met with protests from MPs in the neighbouring city of Sheffield, who thought it would threaten the arena in their city. Their opposition led the government to pull £18 million ($29.4 million) of funding that regional development agency Yorkshire Forward set aside for the Leeds building.

The council in Leeds, one of the few major U.K. cities without an arena, wasn’t deterred and said the £78 million ($127 million) building was its “No. 1 priority” and would open by 2012 as originally planned.

Leeds believes the new arena will create more than 300 jobs and generate £28 million per year for the local economy.

Before the authority took on the development of the arena site, there was more delay as it considered its options.

Montpellier Estates, one of two companies that failed in a bid to develop either a site at Holbeck’s Sweet Street or land next to Leeds United’s Elland Road soccer ground, decided to take the council to court when it found out it intended building it on land it owns at Claypit Lane because it felt it would be a better value. That site was not originally shortlisted.

Montpellier chairman Jan Fletcher told the Yorkshire Post that she had “great regret” over pursuing the matter in the High Court but said the council left the company no alternative.