A £20 million plan has been unveiled to transform Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena (NIA) into one of the top ten music arenas in the world.
The biggest change at the 20-year-old venue, part of The NEC Group, will see a glazed frontage overlooking the neighbouring canals, three towering sky needles and steps down to the waterway.
Backstage will get a five-star makeover for performers, who have recently included artists such as Kasabian and Rihanna.
Group chief executive Paul Thandi said the NIA would stand among the globe’s top ten music arenas after the changes.
He said: “The NIA isn’t in the top ten but it will be after this”.
Concert-goers and sports spectators are currently greeted by parked cars, brick walls and concrete columns at the entrance to the venue.
Group bosses have signed up architects Broadway Malyan to transform the inward-facing building into a landmark by the autumn of 2014.
The building will be extended over four levels to create 5,900 square metres of space and work is due to begin in late 2012.
Current capacity is more than 14,000, which would increase by between 500 and 1,000.
But the increase was less important than changing the appearance of the site, added bosses.
Aidan Ridyard, board director at the architect firm, which worked on Bournville College and Edgbaston cricket ground, compared the effect of the new look with a 19th century opera house and the importance placed on its front of house.
He added: “We’re so lucky to have a site fronting onto the canal. It should be a picture postcard for Birmingham. That needs to be one of the missions of this project.”
A loan from Birmingham City Council will fund the work and bosses said this would be repaid through extra income generated by the improvements.
Discussions are also taking place over sponsorship rights to the venue with an announcement about this expected in the new year.
Mr Thandi said: “The vista out there is one of the best in the city and is currently enjoyed by our staff car park so we’ve got to capitalise on that.”
Phil Mead, managing director of the NIA, said the timing of the redevelopment was based on the growth of the live concert market in the last ten years.