A businessman championing a city centre arena has pledged to do all he can to ensure the best deal for the people of Bristol.
Stephen Fear has revealed the mysterious American investors who have thrown their hat into the ring are from Oakview Group – global arena specialists with a stake in the world-famous Madison Square Garden in New York and other major venues.
The Bristol-born entrepreneur, who has been acting as a go-between for the US firm after music mogul Harvey Goldsmith contacted him, also told Bristol24/7 that St Philip’s Marsh has been touted as a possible alternative location to Temple Island.
On Thursday, a council committee dismissed a bid to stall the decision to scrap an arena on the land by Temple Meads, meaning that proposals for an alternative mixed-use development will go ahead there.
But speaking on the same day, Stephen Fear said this does not mean that the vision for a city centre arena is lost altogether as he stressed that he hopes to work with potential investors and the mayor to find a suitable location.
“Investors with a possible £150m to £200m of funds do not grow on trees and when we have them prepared to come to the city with their expertise and influence and knowledge – we need to encourage this,” he told Bristol24/7.
“My intention all along was to help bring a state-of-the-art arena to Bristol city centre, whether that be on Temple Island or elsewhere. I’m not fixated on one site. It’s really up to the specialists.”
Fear, who is chair and founder of Fear Group, attended a meeting with three of Oakview’s team, representatives from Bristol City Council and head of the mayor’s office Kevin Slocombe last Friday (September 14).
Fear said that city council interim executive director of growth and regeneration, Colin Molton, told the US investors that an arena on Temple Island was off the table, but that alternative possibilities in a central location were discussed, including a potential site at St Philip’s Marsh.
Following the meeting, a council spokesperson said: “We have met with a group of investors to discuss the possibility for a city centre arena that would be fully funded by the private sector.
“It was clear that Temple Island in not being considered, for a number of reasons, including its size. We are currently arranging further discussions.”
Fear said that he now feels he has “done my job and brought investors to Bristol”.
He added: “They, I and Harvey Goldsmith firmly believe a city centre location is the best one and anything other would be a bit disappointing.
“I have Bristol’s best interests at heart – that’s why I got involved.”
Fear told Bristol24/7 that he has no desire to get into conflict with Bristol mayor Marvin Rees and hopes to work with him for the good of the city that he was born in and has lived in for most of his life.
“If the mayor is still keen to explore a city centre option then I will do my very best to keep the investors interested in Bristol, I promise the people of Bristol that,” he said.
“I’m very optimistic about the potential for Bristol but if the arena goes to Filton, I think it will draw an awful lot of investment away from the city centre.
“We have shops that are struggling. An arena near Cabot Circus would be better for city centre businesses, while if it goes to Filton, it will fuel Cribbs Causeway.
“An arena with high definition sound will attract top acts for two or three nights and they will stay in Bristol hotels, as will their entourage and their fans. It adds to the charisma of the city and is a good economic generator.”
Fear says he is in regular contact with Oakview and that the potential investors are currently going through figures.
At this stage, there are no solid offers on the table, but tweeting after the call-in scrutiny meeting on Thursday, Fear said “It’s never over til it’s over” as he pledged to continue discussions to find an alternative city centre location.