Rocket Man Elton powers blast-off of new first direct arena in Leeds

Caption: Leeds City Council leader Cllr Keith Wakefield (centre) cuts the ribbon to open the first direct arena with the help of Lord Mayor Cllr Tom Murray (left) and arena general manager Ben Williams (right)

The stunning new £60m first direct arena was officially opened last night as Elton John demonstrated he was still standing in style to the delight of his loyal fans.

The veteran entertainer dazzled the crowds at Leeds’ latest venue after recovering from a recent bout of appendicitis that led to him cancelling his European summer tour.

But he returned in top form to officially open the arena- following last month’s “road test” gig by US rock star Bruce Springsteen- with a large dose of his inimitable showmanship to cement its arrival in the city.

Earlier the formal official opening honours were performed by Leeds City Council leader Councillor Keith Wakefield, who cut a ribbon across the main entrance to symbolically welcome in the crowds.

It marks the beginning of an opening fortnight of varied events, featuring diverse acts such as the legendary Leonard Cohen, local rock heroes Kaiser Chiefs and singing superstar Rahet Fateh Ali Khan.

Cllr Wakefield said:

“When the council first pledged to ensure an arena would be built for the city of Leeds it was with the determination that it would be a cutting-edge venue with superb design and technical specifications to attract the finest of the world’s performing artists.

“Now we have firmly achieved that, in no small part due to very successful partnerships with everyone involved in the project, from design through to construction.

“It is a very special performance place that is an incredible addition to the city and along with other major developments in the retail and leisure sectors will further increase Leeds’ appeal and bring in more and more visitors.”

Meanwhile, teams of special volunteer city ambassadors were out in force across the city centre to welcome those visitors last night. They greeted people arriving at railway and bus stations and other key access points to the city to help direct them to car parks and to the arena. They answered queries about where to eat, how to find taxis and cash machines and other questions about spending time in the city centre.

Taxi marshals were also on hand to point people to nearby ranks and extra staff joined the round-the-clock city centre cleansing teams, who put on extra bins and ensured the area was thoroughly cleared overnight.

Notes to editors

SMG Europe is the largest operator of sports and entertainment venues in Europe, such as the Manchester Evening News Arena and the city’s Bridgewater Hall, the Odyssey Arena in Belfast and Oslo Spektrum. They are responsible for running the first direct arena, with Leeds City Council acting as landlords as the building’s owners.

Further information on getting to the city and for a map of where to park can be found on the council’s website here: Travelling to the first direct arena

More information is also available on the arena’s own website at www.firstdirectarena.com

To see Cllr Wakefield talk about his hopes for the arena and what it means for Leeds go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87OfsbYNYvI

For media enquiries please contact:

Donna Cox, Communications Manager, Press & Media Relations

Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335

e-mail: donna.cox@leeds.gov.uk