Dundee plots new arena to bolster culture capital bid

The new V&A Museum of Design is set to be a cultural centre piece. Picture: ContributedThe new V&A Museum of Design is set to be a cultural centre piece. Picture: Contributed
The new V&A Museum of Design is set to be a cultural centre piece. Picture: Contributed

A new events arena is being lined up for Dundee to bolster its attempt to become European Capital of Culture – as it emerged the year-long arts extravaganza could be worth more than £128 million to the economy if it is secured.

Bid leaders say almost half a million additional visitors could be lured to the city if Dundee fends off expected competition from the likes of Leeds, Cornwall and Milton Keynes.

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It is hoped 1,600 new jobs could be created under the city’s bid, which is intended to build upon the city’s attempt to be named UK City of Culture this year, which saw it narrowly lose out to Hull.

However Dundee’s bid, which the Scottish Government has thrown its weight behind, could cost up to £80M to deliver – the same price tag as Dundee’s new waterfront V&A museum. Experts are examining options for a new indoor concert and conference complex to complement the 2,300-capacity Caird Hall and the outdoor events space, Slessor Gardens, opened last year on the waterfront.

A new state-of-the-art facility is thought to be key to any Dundee bid to ensure that the Scottish and UK national performing arts companies are able to visit the city in 2023.

New direct air routes and the development of a string of new hotels are said to be other key priorities for the official bid.

Senior council officials say Dundee is “deadly serious” about bidding for the crown, which is widely believed to have transformed Glasgow’s economic fortunes after its 1990 reign. They insist the looming Brexit will not impact on its plans to bid for the title, which the UK Government has agreed to host in 2023.

Stewart Murdoch, director of leisure at Dundee City Council, said: “We will definitely need to address the issue of accommodation for visitors. We know that Aarhus, in Denmark, which has the title this year, built five new hotels straight on the back of its bid.

“Consultants are doing a scoping exercise for a new venue in Dundee. We recognised that for live music and conferences the current venues in the city may be inadequate.

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“A successful bid would accelerate things that we want to do, as opposed to creating new things just for the bid. That’s not what we’re about.

“But we’re deadly serious about this bid. It’s a silver bullet for the council’s aspirations, although it won’t take us in a different direction from the one the city is going in with our regeneration strategy.”

Dundee’s V&A, the only design museum in the UK outside London, is due to open next summer.

Other projects in the pipeline include an overhaul and expansion of the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre, the creation of the UK’s first purpose-built comic centre, which would showcase highlights from The Broons and Beano publisher DC Thomson, and the transformation of the former West Ward Works printworks into one of the UK’s biggest spaces.

Bryan Beattie, consultant to the bid tea, said: “In terms of cultural infrastructure, a lot of it is in place already or will be by 2023, particularly if the Tay Cities Bid goes ahead.

“The one thing that has yet to teased out is a medium-sized music venue.

The Caird Hall is a brilliant facility and it does things on a certain scale, but it is more suited to certain types of music than others.

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“A medium-sized venue that can fill the gap that there is in the city just now is the one area that still needs to be addressed.

People in Dundee will quite rightly want to know what the direct economic benefits will be from public investment in this.

“The bid is also about the social and cultural impacts of a successful bid and the long-lasting effect it would have on individuals and communities in Dundee.

“Those areas as as important, if not more so, to the people who will be involved in the bid.”