Work on a £45 million overhaul of the Resorts World Arena will not start until after the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Planning chiefs at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council awarded the project the green light last week and owner NEC Group said it was planning to complete the work before the summer sporting spectacle started that July.
But NEC Group has now decided it wants to delay the work in order to keep the venue fully open in the intervening period and support the live events industry as it battles to come back from the devastating effects of the coronavirus lockdown.
The project will see the capacity of the 40-year-old arena expanded by 6,000 people to 21,600 – making it bigger than The O2 in London, Manchester Arena and its sister site the Utilita Arena in Birmingham city centre.
The development will include a new roof 32 feet higher than the current structure and there will be more premium hospitality, food and beverage and merchandise facilities.
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Around 160 jobs will be created during the construction and a further 220 part-time roles once the renovation is complete.
The work is the largest investment in the arena since a £29 million overhaul a decade ago as part of a new title sponsorship deal with electronics giant LG.
Companies like the NEC Group have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown as their main revenue stream comes from events such as business conferences and concerts where social distancing is almost impossible without massively curbing the number of people who can attend.
Resorts World Arena would normally host more than 100 shows and events per year but many have now been put back to later this year or to 2021 and 2022.
NEC Group said in a statement: “The staging of these events is crucial to Resorts World Arena.
“This has inevitably put pressure on the arena’s diary and time available to close the venue for the works.”
The arena is due to host the netball at the 2022 Commonwealth Games while badminton, boxing, table tennis and weightlifting will take place next door at the National Exhibition Centre.
Managing director of NEC Group arenas Guy Dunstan said: “We are excited we’ll be able to still host most of the events we’ve missed over the last few months and cannot wait to play our part in what will be an historic Commonwealth Games in 2022.
“To accommodate the revised event dates and negate any potential delay to the games, we have reviewed the project timelines and made the decision to reschedule the works until after the games have finished.”