A developer for Cardiff’s planned 15,000-seater indoor arena will be chosen in “the next couple of months”.
But questions have been raised whether the planned arena and conference centre is still a good idea considering the impact of the pandemic.
As part of the plans, Cardiff council bought the Red Dragon Centre in Cardiff Bay earlier this year.
The council is currently choosing a developer and operator for the indoor arena, and a decision is expected over the “next couple of months”, according to Ian Allwood, head of finance.
The chosen developer will then apply for planning permission, revealing detailed plans of what the arena could look like.
Mr Allwood was updating councillors on the policy scrutiny committee about the council’s current financial position, at a public meeting on Tuesday, September 15. During that meeting, councillors raised concerns about the plans for the arena and the impact of social distancing rules.
Councillor Rod McKerlich said: “The consideration of having a conference centre must have dramatically changed as a result of Covid. Are we still intent on going ahead with it?
“I have no doubt that having a conference centre and an indoor arena looked like a good idea three years ago. But it must be looking like a much less good idea now.”
Cllr Rodney Berman said: “I do share concerns about whether the arena project is actually a sensible project to be moving forward with in the changing circumstances. We don’t know that this vaccine will come along and take away the problem in a few months and then everything will be back to normal.
“There could well be quite a change in the way people operate for a long time. I know there are a lot of employers, for instance, who are contemplating having far more of their staff working from home, at least for part of the week.
“There have also been a lot of moves towards virtual conferences and some of that may well stay. There may be less demand for an arena for conferences and things like that.”
But the arena firmly remains part of the city’s future, according to Cllr Chris Weaver, cabinet member for finance.
Cllr Weaver said: “This could have a significant impact on large elements of our lives for a long time to come. But we are not never going to have live music again. We are not never going to go back to mass gatherings.
“We need to recognise that while this is an extremely difficult situation, and will have lasting impact, it cannot put everything and will not put everything on hold forever. I do see a successful indoor arena as a very viable and important part of the city’s future.”