There is little doubt that the economy of South Wales would benefit from having a 10,000-plus seater indoor arena and dedicated convention centre.
While we have world class infrastructure in the Millennium Stadium, the Wales Millennium Centre and the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, adding an indoor arena and convention centre into the mix would only help to further South Wales’ reputation as a leading leisure and event destination – with all the economic benefits and additional spend they would bring.
Last year Cardiff council looked at a number of possible site options to locate both facilities, which would cost potentially around £150m.
Cardiff could look to fund the projects, potentially in a public-private partnership arrangement, with its contribution from borrowing powers, but also with backing from the Welsh Government.
However, the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport is also considering a new dedicated convention centre.
While the resort, chaired by telecommunications billionaire Sir Terry Matthews, could fund such a project itself, the Welsh Government is considering whether to lend its support, which if not through direct finance could be via repayable finance.
But is it just a case of somewhere in the centre of Cardiff or the bay and the Celtic Manor as the location for a convention centre?
While not seemingly on anyone’s radar, what about the centre of Newport?
There is at last some positive redevelopment work being taken forward, including a new HQ for motor insurance group Admiral in the centre of Newport.
In terms of getting buy-in for a city region, wouldn’t a Welsh Government financially backed convention centre in the heart of Newport be a clear signal that the future is not all about Cardiff?
Having a convention centre near to the current train station would benefit delegates arriving by train. It would also act a spur for further developments in the centre of Newport.
Many delegates could opt to stay in Cardiff and make the relatively short journey by train to Newport.
But what of Cardiff? Addressing a recent meeting of Cardiff Breakfast Club, Cardiff Council cabinet member for finance, the economy and local government Russell Goodway said that the authority and its leader were committed to delivering both an indoor arena and convention centre in the capital.
He rightly warned of the danger of Bristol stealing a march on Wales by having its own indoor arena operational before this side of the Severn bridge.
The city is bidding for a slice of the UK Government’s Regional Growth Fund and a decision is expected over the summer.
Around £50m of the bid will be used to pay towards a proposed £80m 12,000-seat indoor arena next to Temple Meads station. The rest of the cash has been earmarked for the second phase of the redevelopment of Colston Hall.
If realised it would look to draw in event goers from South Wales, something that Bristol Airport has done successfully in recent years to support strong passenger growth.
But in terms of a convention centre, and despite talk of targeting different segments of the market, I cannot see how there wouldn’t be an element of competition for conferences between a convention centre at Newport and one less than 20 miles away in Cardiff.
There is an outside possibility that the Celtic Manor could extend out of Newport by running a convention centre, potentially with an ownership stake, in Cardiff.
However, the bottomline is that we need to see an end to the talking and get these much needed facilities, whether both located in Cardiff or with a convention centre in Newport, coming out of the ground as quickly as possible.