Assembly Rooms to go, new arena for Derby

Published: 10 July 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

Artist’s impression of the new Becketwell Arena Credit: St James Securities
Facing demolition: Derby’s Assembly Rooms Credit: Steve Orme

One of Derby’s major venues, the Assembly Rooms, is to be demolished and replaced with a new £45 million arena—six years after a fire in the plant room on top of its car park.

The new 3,500-capacity building, known as the Becketwell Arena, is to be on the site of the former Pink Coconut nightclub a few hundred yards away from the Market Place where the Assembly Rooms was constructed in 1977.

The 1,200-seat Assembly Rooms suffered extensive damage in 2014. Derby city council, which owns the building, estimated the cost of the fire and lost revenue during the first year it was closed at £5.5 million. A draft report into the fire concluded that it was due to failings in the Assembly Rooms’ design and maintenance.

Initially, the Labour-controlled authority said the venue should be knocked down and rebuilt at a cost of £44 million. But when the Conservatives took control of the council, they decided to refurbish it at a cost of £24 million.

Now the authority has unveiled plans for an entertainment and conference venue which is expected to hold hundreds of cultural and commercial events each year and attract an additional quarter of a million visitors to Derby. It will be completed by 2024.

Deputy council leader Councillor Matthew Homes said, “we’re working with experienced commercial sector partners to put the best venue option on the table.

"This is about creating a vibrant, thriving city centre and rejuvenating areas that have seen a decline. A new venue like this will boost business confidence by creating hundreds of jobs, putting millions into the local economy and make a big contribution to Derby’s future prosperity."

Paul Morris, director of developer St James Securities, added, "our flexible venue will cater for major music and comedy acts as well as a strong programme of theatre content.”

The Assembly Rooms is expected to be demolished in the next 18 months. The council is discussing what will replace it.