New Arena Will Deliver the Ultimate Concert Experience

No seat is farther than 220 feet from the stage

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Leeds Arena concert hall in Yorkshire, U.K.

England now has a state-of-the-art arena, designed specifically to host big-name concerts, but while still being flexible to attract a variety of events, including sports.

Most U.S. arenas can accommodate 15,000 to 20,000 fans and are designed around primarily around sporting events (most often basketball and/or hockey), with performance-staging — from seating to acoustics — secondary consideration.

The new First Direct Arena (formerly Leeds Arena)—designed by global architecture firm Populous—reverses that approach, giving priority to performances.

The 12,500-seat venue features a fan-shaped bowl, which keeps the seat farthest from the stage just 220 feet away. And all seats are unobstructed.

“The tighter spatial configuration allows opportunities to control the atmosphere and acoustic of the performance,” the architect says.

This beefed-up theater style can morph into a more conventional arena by removing stage-level seating to make way for basketball, tennis, boxing or other sports. But the inside isn’t the only thing changing here.

The geometric-styled exterior boasts LED lighting strips with the chameleon-like ability to vary colors and patterns with a simple press of a button.

Included in the arena, which already hosted Bruce Springsteen in what amounted to a break-in concert for the venue and opened officially this fall with Elton John, the Kaiser Chiefs and Micky Flanagan, are 24 suites, three restaurants and a “flexible entrance area that can be used as a winter garden” to tie into the heart of the Leeds urban core.

Already with a full slate of concerts booked into the venue, we could see the beginning of a new concert-first arena style.