Meadowhall is set to be transformed by a £300 million plan for a massive new leisure complex – creating 1,000 jobs.
The project would be the single biggest investment in the Sheffield shopping complex since it opened 26 years ago.
The centre’s joint owner, British Land, wants to create a 330,000sq ft leisure hall – covered in a giant lattice-like roof, which will include restaurants, a new cinema and space for all sorts of activities, from 10-pin bowling to indoor golf.
Meadowhall centre director Darren Pearce said: “This will transform the appeal of Meadowhall.”
The ‘phenomenal’ £300 million extension to Meadowhall will help push Sheffield forward and transform the city into a prime destination for shopping and leisure.
Developers hope the 330,000 sq ft leisure hall will improve what Sheffield can offer to both residents and visitors, alongside the Sheffield Retail Quarter, the redevelopment of the Moor and the planned Ikea at the old Tinsley Wire site, among others.
Meadowhall centre director Darren Pearce is understandably excited about the Meadowhall project, which is the single biggest investment in the shopping centre since it opened 26 years ago.
The leisure hall, covered in a giant lattice roof, will include restaurants, a new cinema to replace the existing one, and space for all sorts of activities, from tenpin bowling to indoor golf. It will create 1,000 jobs. But Mr Pearce also realises the need for Sheffield and the wider city region to work as one to improve its ‘offer’ and stop what he calls ‘leakage’ of people and money to other cities.
“This will transform the appeal of Meadowhall,” he said. “But we are endorsing the city centre and Ikea because it stops leakage out of the city.”
Meadowhall already attracts millions of people to its 290 shops and 50-plus restaurants and bars each year. But the aim of the new leisure hall is to offer a fuller experience, with a range of activities and new spaces.
“In 1990 Meadowhall was absolutely revolutionary. What the leisure hall does is shakes it up another level,” said Mr Pearce. “In terms of appeal and excitement, it’s phenomenal.”
The design of the leisure hall, which will extend from the existing Oasis area, is a key part of the plan to cement Meadowhall’s place on the map. The open, airy space of the leisure hall will be covered by a huge glazed roof with a lattice frame, similar to that used at King’s Cross station in London – but four times larger.
Underneath the roof will be a mix of cafes, bars and restaurants on various levels, complemented by a variety of entertainment and activities. The occupants have yet to be confirmed, but there is scope for whatever new experiences – a trampoline park, for example – emerge between now and the planned opening date of late 2020/early 2021.
Live entertainment is also part of the plan. Meadowhall already hosts big events such as the Christmas lights switch-on concert.
A large outdoor space in the leisure hall will offer opportunities for a larger and more varied programme. And the aim is to work with city-wide events such as Tramlines and DocFest to involve Meadowhall, as was the case when the Tour de France arrived in Sheffield two years ago.
Mr Pearce wants people to see Meadowhall as a key part of Sheffield’s appeal.
“When you look at the Trafford Centre in Manchester, we run side-by-side until 6pm, but they have got a bigger offering of leisure and catering, and we drop off. The leisure hall will extend people’s visits here. It’s about creating a lifestyle destination choice.
“Eight per cent of our floor space is catering and leisure. The only leisure we have really got is the cinema. This will take us up to about 20 per cent.
“It fills that gap. It puts in that component part that’s not there at the moment.
“We are saying come here, have a great experience, but we have got some of the best theatres outside London here. Stay the night and go to a show, go to the Peaks the next day.
“Making sure we connect all these elements together is the key thing. We are boosting the whole city region.”
When Meadowhall was built, plenty of city centre retailers expressed concerns about the impact of the shopping centre on their trade.
And while some of their concerns may have been justified, there is now a realisation that Sheffield benefits when everyone is pulling in the same direction.
Mr Pearce said he wanted more development in the city centre.
“I talk extensively with the city council,” he said. “I’m keen to see Sheffield Retail Quarter move forward.
“It’s all about linking the offers together, making the connections and enhancing the offer in the region and plugging the gaps.
“We know that people from predominantly affluent parts of the city go to Leeds or Manchester. We need to stop that, he added.”
And the key question when it comes to investment in the city region is the location of the HS2 railway station, either at Meadowhall or in the city centre. It’s a contentious topic, but Mr Pearce is pragmatic in his opinion.
“I can see the merits of both,” he said. “We haven’t got a stance on it. I don’t think we understand enough of the arguments in terms of economic benefits.
“HS2 needs to decide. The most important thing for me is that we do have a station to connect the north more effectively.”
British Land expects to submit a detailed planning application in late summer this year. If plans are approved, work could begin in 2018.
The leisure hall plans will go on display at Meadowhall from 11am to 6pm on June 3, and from 10am to 4pm on June 4. Details are also online at www.futuremeadowhall.co.uk.