first direct Arena, Leeds

The first direct Arena is a city centre 12,500 capacity multi-purpose entertainment focused Super Theatre capable of hosting concerts and other entertainment events, providing a high level of comfort and customer experience. The arena will be situated alongside the inner ring road on a 5.1 acre site at Claypit Lane, benefiting from a vibrant City Centre location and well established city centre infrastructure. This, along with SMG’s operational expertise and position in the entertainment industry, will enable Leeds to be a venue of choice for major artistes, and an integral part of the recognised national and international touring circuit.

Although primarily entertainment focussed, the facility is also suitable for additional uses such as business conferences, exhibitions and sports events such as Boxing, Tennis, Basketball and Premier League Darts.



The first direct arena is a unique and ground breaking project, both in design and conception. The procurement process for the first direct arena started in 2008 from the innovative position of appointing the operator prior to the developer selection and venue design.

Prospective operators were invited to take part in a competitive dialogue process and asked to come forward with a proposed design brief, facilities requirement, facility services requirement, outline construction cost plan and a lease offer, which would eventually be adopted as the framework for the appointment of the construction contractors and design team.

Having won the competition SMG Europe have been a key driver in the design development, planning, costing development, value engineering and construction planning through to RIBA stage D and the subsequent appointment of the main contractor. Then working with the appointed main contractor and their design team to develop the design through to stage E and ultimately through to construction completion and handover, which will be early in 2013.

SMG has already begun the process of event programming to deliver on the business plan that is the basis of the lease agreement. Our success in delivering a fully functional and commercially viable project is based on our market knowledge, event programming expertise, and commercial sales efforts in addition to our design & construction consulting expertise.


Leeds City Council



Project Type

Public Assembly Arena


60.0M GBP

Scheduled Completion

May 2013

Scope of services

Project Board Members, Master Planning, Consultant Selection, Main Contractor Selection, Design Brief Development, Key Stage Design Review, Value Engineering, Design Development, Commissioning, FF&E Procurement, Reporting, Business Plan Development

Key Personnel

  • General Manager
    Jen Mitchell