If you were one of the 12 million viewers who saw the 2013 Sports Personality of The Year Awards you will have already seen the magnificent edifice that is the First Direct Leeds Arena, from where the show was was broadcast.
It was opened in the Spring of 2013 by Bruce Springsteen who had specifically requested to appear here after the Arena appeared in the World Top Twenty Arena list in the U.S.A.
The venue holds more than 13,000 and is built in an amphitheatre style so that the view from all seats is unrestricted. Having been twice already, I can confirm that the sightlines are indeed terrific.
If you are a customer of First Direct bank I believe that you can obtain reduced price tickets and access to a First Direct private lounge.
The Arena has a Premier Club where members can obtain four tickets for every show, and have access to the private Premier Lounge.
Higher up the league, there are Pinnacle Suites, exclusive boxes for up to 16 guests. Here there are private balconies facing the stage, a champagne reception and fine dining. They are taken on an annual basis. All are taken at the moment and there is a long waiting list.
There is the usual mix of events and performances on the line-up such as international boxing and world darts, musicals, comedy, world class singers and bands as well as tv spin-off shows such as Dancing On Ice, Strictly Come Dancing, the X-Factor Tour and Ant and Dec shows.
There are 7,500 parking spaces within a fifteen minute walk of the Arena, with two adjacent multi-storey car parks at Woodhouse Lane and the Merrion Centre offering £5 deals for Arena events. Local reports however, state that it can take up to an hour to exit these car parks after an event due to congestion.
Money-grubbing Leeds City Council have recently introduced on street car parking charges to the city centre after 6pm and all day Sunday to rake in the cash from Arena goers. Be warned, these apply up to 10pm and the wardens have been hyper-active dishing out hundreds of parking fines.These spaces were previously free and to add insult to injury they have also made many previously single yellow line streets into double yellow line streets.
The railway station and the central bus stations are a ten minute walk from the Arena.
The city centre location means that there are a multiplicity of dining and drinking places both before and after events, rather than being held to ransom by the in-house caterers. No food and drink are allowed to be taken into the Arena.
The Arena itself is magnificent, with great views.
The egress from the Arena on foot is very quick.
The acoustics are wonderful. Rod Stewart said on stage that they were the best of any arena he has played in.
There is no dedicated drop-off or pick-up point, it is every man for him or her self. Arrive early if coming by car and find a spot on street (don't forget to get a ticket) or find a multi storey spot on a lower deck to avoid long queues to get out.
Inside the Arena, the visible seating block numbers are confusing as they do not indicate where one block ends and another starts. Scores of people sit in the wrong seats and have to be moved.
The Arena seating is steeply banked to give good views but the gangways are also steeply stepped and have no handrails. The elderly and less able can have difficulty getting up to their row of seats.
The graphic signs for male and female toilets are very similar and confusing. We had a great side-line in entertainment watching men enter the ladies toilets and then watching the bemused reactions.
Sat-navvers or google-mappers can find the Arena on Claypit Lane at LS2 8BY.
Details of the forthcoming programme and ticketing arrangements can be found at www.firstdirectarena.com.
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