Gallery: The new look of the NIA

Welcoming almost one million visitors every year and attracting some of the world’s top talent and sporting events, it is one of the West Midlands’ biggest stadiums.

And, as these pictures show, a £26million transformation project that aims to turn the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham into a ‘super theatre’ is edging closer to completion. 

The venue which has hosted everyone from Madonna and Sir Cliff Richard to Black Sabbath and Metallica has now closed for three months as construction work enters its next phase.

Part of the refurbishment will reflect Birmingham’s heritage, while there will be more food and drink operators at the venue and extra leg room in the main arena bowl.

It is expected to be fully completed in December when it will also cease to be called the NIA after the naming rights were sold to Barclaycard to help to fund the project – although its new moniker is yet to be announced. The three month period, which began on Monday, has been timed to coincide with the summer festival season. 

No shows will be held so that construction workers from BAM can undertake some of the more intensive construction work that needs to be done to get the project finished.

All of the seats inside the area have been ripped out, walls are being demolished, and all the while the stadium continues to be wrapped in a skeleton of scaffolding.

It is hoped the fruits of their labour will be a striking one when their work is completed – a huge glass facade encompassing three mezzanine levels, divided by huge copper-plated ‘fins’, will greet those walking into the arena from Brindley Place. 

Meanwhile three different-sized spikes, affectionately being call sky needles by staff, will sit on top and glow with multicoloured light at night. Scaffolding currently surrounds the building as work goes on behind the scenes.  Bosses want to make the most of the building’s canalside position. 

They say the venue ‘currently turns its back on the canal’ but they hope the redevelopment will help it to make the most of its waterside surroundings.

Inside the arena new seats have been fitted around the sides, with higher backs and increased leg room, while the sound rigging has also been moved to help accommodate more seats. 

The capacity as a whole, including the standing area, is being increased from 14,150 to 15,992.

The concourse around the arena is being widened from around seven metres to 22 metres, and three mezzanine levels have been added as well as the stylish Barclaycard Lounge.

The lounge which opened earlier this year can host special pre-concert events and VIP guests.

The first mezzanine floor will be designed to reflect the Jewellery Quarter, with diamonds and golden chains dotted around. The second mezzanine will  focus on industrial heritage, with hints of copper and mesh. 

There will also be more toilets – with one female block being expanded to accommodate 70 cubicles.  

The back of house area, dressing rooms and Olympian Suite are being reconfigured and refurbished. 

Phil Mead is the managing director of arenas for the NEC Group and said the venue had a bright future. He said: “There are a few key reasons why we needed to do the work. 

“Number one, we have to make sure the building is well maintained, as it was getting a bit tired.

“Also it’s a building designed around an athletics track, and we need to turn today’s arenas into an attractive destination.

“What we are creating with the new design it almost a super-theatre.”

It is hoped the work can continue to grow Birmingham’s market share in the events market, which, with the NIA and LG Arena combined, currently stands at 11.5 to 12 per cent in the UK. The NIA , which opened in 1991, welcomes almost one million visitors every year.

Mr Mead said: “It’s really important that Birmingham maintains its market share for major events, whether that’s music or sport, and it’s no good reacting to the market when it’s too late.

“In the past 10 years or so nearly every major city has built an arena. 

“Artists can only play so many dates in Europe, so we have to make sure we try and stay in the Premier League for shows. 

“And in sport, we need to be in the major touring circuit.” 

Recently the stadium has secured the IAAF World Indoor Championships in 2018, and the YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships until 2021 - something Mr Mead in part puts down to the redevelopment and what it means the stadium will be able to offer in the future. Speaking when it was announced he said: “We have specifically designed the arena  to ensure that it is purpose built for exactly this type of top flight sporting event and I am absolutely confident that Birmingham will deliver the most successful IAAF World Indoor Championship ever.”

As part of the redevelopment work, four retail units have also been created, to be open, seven days a week during normal shopping hours during the week, with announcements on who will be occupying them expected soon. 

They are expected to be fitted out in the autumn. 

The food and beverage on offer at the venue will also be improved to further boost the experience for  promoters, artists and performers and visitors.

A key part of the refurbished venue  will be sharing in customers’ digital conversations.

That will include technology to locate people and communicate through email and social media.

The NIA will re-open on September 15 when girl group The Saturdays will perform. 

Two days later comedian Lee Evans will take to the stage and on September 23 Riverdance will be entertaining crowds in the newly refurbished surroundings.

Earlier this year the NEC Group was put up for sale by Birmingham City Council, and Mr Mead said that, whoever the buyer turns out to be, the developments at the NIA can only help to convince them of its value.

The building work is taking place at the same time as the construction of a £150 million resort, near the NEC, which will offer a four-star hotel, dozens of designer shops, restaurants and bars, a casino, an 11-screen cinema and a spa. 

It will be the first of its kind in the UK when it opens this time next year and is set to be the largest leisure and entertainment complex in the whole of Western Europe.

The complex is being developed by Genting UK and construction work began in 2013.

Cinema giant Cineworld has already signed up to run the cinema at the complex, which will have both IMAX and 3D screens. The hotel, which will also include five-star suites on the upper floor of the complex, will be run by Genting UK itself. 

There will also be a casino and Asian-themed spa along with an upper level Sky Bar where people will be able to sit and watch the planes landing at the nearby Birmingham International Airport.

The venue will also be home to a conference centre for use by businesses catering for 1,000 guests.

When the Resorts World complex is fully operational 1100 full time equivalent jobs will be created and it is anticipated many of those will be filled by local people.

Genting has developed a reputation for developing largescale leisure venues right across the globe.

Resorts World in Birmingham will join other destinations in Sentosa, Singapore, Manila, New York and the Genting Highlands complex north of Kuala Lumpur.

But the Birmingham complex is by far the company’s most ambitious building project to date.

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