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Leicester Riders set for 'transformational' arena move

By Matthew Campelli    22 Jan 2016
Ball Hall designed the 2,500-capacity arena in the heart of Leicester / Leicester Riders

Leicester Riders’ move to its new £6m (US$8.5m, €7.8m) arena is a “transformational” step for British basketball, according to chair Kevin Routledge.

The British Basketball League (BBL) team, which contested the BBL Cup against the Newcastle Eagles on Sunday (17 January), is set to move into its Community Sports Arena at the end of the month after a near-18 month development process.

After gaining planning permission for the Ball Hall-designed facility in November 2014, building work began on the project in April 2015. Routledge revealed that around 80 per cent of the funding had come from the public sector through Sport England and the Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership.

“We think this is transformational,” Routledge told Sports Management. “This is an opportunity for basketball to benefit from the public sector like other sports have. The BBL wants to replicate this and move towards having a degree of control over secondary revenue and community reach.”

The 2,500-capacity facility is owned by the Leicester Riders Foundation – the team’s charitable arm – with the Riders as main tenants. The club spent the last 15 years playing at Loughborough and De Montfort universities, but will now be able to benefit from food and beverage sales and hire out the facility for exhibitions.

“Basketball has no assets,” said Routledge, pointing to a landscape in which very few professional UK teams own their own venue. “Imagine football or rugby without assets. Basketball can’t benefit from added value at the moment.”

The arena is worth £6m, although Routledge revealed that £4.8m (US$6.8m, €6.3m) in cash was spent on the facilities, while many of its components were sponsored by companies like Reebok. Two-thirds of the seats are cushioned, LED screens have been installed and Wifi is available for the crowd.

Community and grassroots are “core” to the proposition added Routledge, who stated that the majority of time in the arena will be focused on community projects, mainly through basketball programmes, while 6-8 per cent of arena time will be devoted to the Riders, 15 per cent to Leicester College – which co-funded the facility – and 15 per cent for elite and talent development.

In return for funding, Sport England has set a number of targets for the club in terms of engaging with a certain percentage of females, disabled people and individuals from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background.

Routledge said he wanted to capitalise on the city’s young and socially diverse (46 per cent BAME) demographic, and suggested that there was scope to expand the arena or use bigger venues if demand increases.

“The mayor of the city of Leicester (Sir Peter Soulsby) would like to see built a 6,000+ capacity arena,” said Routledge. “The next step in our evolution is to play in Europe; we have the arena now, but 2,500 seats may not be sufficient for a European game so I’d like to potentially partner with another venue.”

Basketball  Leicester Riders  arena  grassroots  community 
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