Steve Bell, of Wadsley, said a national listings magazine showed 12 events at the First Direct Arena in Leeds in forthcoming months while the sole performance at Utilita Arena Sheffield was John Barryman - ‘and even he is playing Leeds twice’.
He added: “I offer no explanation but do raise the question as to why top bands that used to frequent Sheffield now avoid our facilities, preferring Leeds?”
HAS SHEFFIELD ARENA BEEN DAMAGED BY ITS YOUNGER RIVAL?
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Dominic Stokes, head of live events and venues at owner Sheffield City Trust, agreed some shows were playing Leeds and not Sheffield but many had been forced to move from 2019 and 2020 due to the pandemic.
Some, despite being a ‘big name’ couldn’t fill the huge floor at the Utilita Arena Sheffield, or wanted a different set up, he added. And some played Leeds or Sheffield each year in rotation.
There were also some big events ‘programmed’ in Sheffield but unannounced, he added.
Mr Stokes said: “I am sure this question has popped up every year for the near 31 years that the Arena has been around and I can fully understand and appreciate why your reader has asked the question.
“It will, however, always depend on what people see as ‘big’ events based on their own personal tastes.”
The 13,600-seat Sheffield Arena was opened on May 30, 1991 by the Queen and has welcomed more than 16 million people, bringing more than £500m to the Sheffield economy, it is claimed.
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The Yorkshire-based rivalry goes back to 2009 when South Yorkshire MPs objected to government approval for £10m of public money for a new £80m Leeds Arena, warning it could have an ‘adverse, knock-on effect’ on Sheffield Arena and cost local jobs.
Sheffield International Venues, the forerunner to Sheffield City Trust, echoed those concerns just before the new 12,500-seat building opened in 2013.
But Leeds city councillor Richard Lewis said there would be enough demand to have two arenas in neighbouring cities.
ARE THERE ENOUGH ‘BIG’ ACTS AT SHEFFIELD ARENA?
Today, Leeds Arena is advertising 15 events in February and March including Simply Red, James Blunt, Erza, The Wanted, Stormzy, John Bishop, Stereophonics, Oochya, Planet Earth II and World Championship Boxing.
In the same period, Sheffield Arena is advertising Stormzy, nine Steelers ice hockey matches and Britain’s Strongest Man. Meanwhile, Little Mix, Alan Partridge, Shawn Mendes, Bill Bailey, Strictly Come Dancing and a rescheduled Magic Mike concert, among others, are in April and May.
Mr Stokes added: “There will be a significant catch up now the industry has begun to reopen. The Arena wasn’t on some tour lists at the time possibly due to the availability challenges, but there are other factors why an act, artist or promoter chooses to go elsewhere.
“As an aside, we at the Arena and City Hall (another Sheffield City Trust venue) have relocated, changed or postponed over 1,500 gigs and events during this pandemic period. We have lost very few completely.
“There are shows, with ‘big names’ that just won’t sell the amount of tickets that need to be sold in a big space like our Arena. There are shows that need a different configuration to the setup.
“They may not want the large floor space – we have one of the largest Arena floor capacities in the UK.
“This can be a boon for the really big touring acts with massive productions, such as Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes. However, sometimes acts will want a more intimate feel.
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“Some artists have regularly played Sheffield one year and Leeds another. Stereophonics, for example, played Sheffield in 2020 and may have played Leeds in 2021 and back to Sheffield in 2022. Due to the pandemic they couldn’t play Leeds in 2021 so are doing so in 2022.
“It should also be remembered that there are a number of ‘big’ events that we have programmed that we haven’t been able to announce yet and we will have to see how they progress as the international entertainment industry works out how to deal with all the implications of a post pandemic world.”
But he conceded: “Sometimes we all have to accept the show just wants to play a city that’s not Sheffield! There are a whole host of reasons for this and this can be out of the venue’s control. Sometimes we may just simply miss out on a tour. As well as Sheffield, the UK these days has some truly amazing venues and Leeds Arena is one of them.”
WHAT DO THE ATTENDANCE FIGURES SHOW?
Some 180,000 people attend Sheffield Steelers ice hockey matches a year, with games occupying about a third of event days, he added.
Mr Stokes said in 2019, the last full year of events, Sheffield Arena was 65th and Leeds 68th in the top 200 worldwide arenas.
He said: “In 2019, we hosted the top three attended music acts, the top two comedy acts, seven out of the top 10 family acts and three out of the top four arena sporting events.
“I think the achievements listed above are pretty good standing on their own merits. I would say they are even more remarkable when you consider the other obligations and pressures on the events diary.”
In September, energy supplier Utilita announced a seven-figure five-year deal for naming rights - ‘the longest running and largest investment in the Arena’s history’, Mr Stokes added.
He said: “Utilita has a significant heritage with the entertainment business and this shows tremendous confidence in what we are doing now but also our future plans.”