Leeds Arena: massive steel beam takes centre stage

The biggest support act for the Leeds Arena arrives today and it’s not a rock band but a 180 tonne, 45 meter long proscenium steel beam which will take pride of place supporting the main stage.

The beam is the heaviest piece of steel in the entire arena building, providing stability to a complex steel structure involving 3,500 tonnes of steel, which would stretch for 24 miles from Leeds to York if laid out flat.

It will take two cranes each weighing 500 tonnes to lift it into place.  Once it is lifted 12 people will work throughout the night and for around 36 consecutive hours to hoist it into place.

Fixing the proscenium beam is an important milestone in BAM’s construction of the £60m Leeds Arena project as it signifies that work to build the 13,500 capacity concert and events venue continues apace and to programme in time for the opening in 2013. 

A peek at the city centre site’s public viewing platform at Clay Pit Lane reveals a hive of activity.  The foundations and two main staircases are now in place along with a lift shaft and two concrete core structures, together offering an exciting glimpse of what the building will look like when complete. 

At any one time up to now, 75 men and women are working on the site, school visits are a frequent occurrence and opportunities are now becoming available for local people to benefit from apprenticeships and job opportunities at the site.  Gordon Alexander, BAM’s Construction Manager for the Leeds Arena, said: “The proscenium beam is a crucial part of the whole structure of the Leeds Arena and an important milestone in the scheme as this is when the building really starts to take shape. Once in place it will create the archway for the stage and support the entire roof structure. 

“Getting the beam in place at this stage is also an indication that construction is progressing as planned and to programme which is great news.”  Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive member responsible for city development, said: “This is a very exciting milestone for the Leeds Arena development and it is great news that progress is steaming ahead as planned. 

“The arena is a hugely important construction project for Leeds – it is estimated to bring an additional one million visitors to the city and add around £25.5m per year to the city’s economy. 

“It is already playing a catalytic part in the wider regeneration of the city centre as further investment and developments are brought forward linked to the arena.  All of this helps to take Leeds up a league and plays an important contribution to ensuring the city is in a strong economic position to recover from the current economic climate.” John Sutherland, Managing Director / Senior Vice President for the Leeds Arena operators SMG Europe, said: “Now that we have reached this significant milestone we look forward to the construction schedule really starting to accelerate ahead of the handover in 2013.  It’s still a little too early to announce any events but we have been extremely encouraged by the excitement this project is generating within the live entertainment industry.” The Leeds Arena will be a unique theatre style venue with all seats facing the performance area each with perfect sight-lines.  Spectators will be much closer to the stage than other traditional bowl venues.   The external design is a stunning honeycomb design of lights that can change colour to reflect the mood of the arena event at the time.