Venue steeped in music history prepares to reopen its doors

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DURING its 22-year-history, some of the world’s most famous stars have taken to its stage.

And now Sheffield Arena is marking the culmination of a multi-million pound renovation project, in preparation for the grand reopening on Sunday, September 8.

The Arena, in the Don Valley, will reopen its doors with an ice hockey match between Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers.

So far, thousands of new seats have been installed, while work on the food and drink stands is “nearing completion”.

Over the past 22 years, stars to have graced the Arena stage include Stevie Wonder, Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Take That, Diana Ross, Oasis, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Beyonce, Lady GaGa, One Direction and, most recently, Michael Buble.

Sheffield’s own golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill also appeared on stage at the Arena in December 2009, when she won third prize at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, behind Jenson Button and Ryan Giggs.

Simon Bailey, the venue’s marketing manager, has worked at Sheffield Arena for the past 20 years.

He said his most memorable event was an REM concert in February 2005 – which didn’t go exactly according to plan.

Mr Bailey said: “Whilst the support band were playing, the promoter informed us that an ambulance was required for guitarist Mike Mills who had a severe infection, was unable to stand and that REM would be unable to play their set.

“After much discussion, frontman Michael Stipe and guitarist Peter Buck went on stage to inform the sell-out crowd of what had happened and that they would need to reschedule the show, but as way of an apology they would play four acoustic songs.

“This turned what could have been a very difficult situation into one of the most moving and unique Arena experiences.

“No amps or any other musicians, just the frontman and a guitarist bringing the house down with the acoustic renditions of The One I Love, Leaving New York, I’ve Been High and Losing My Religion.

“The capacity crowd left to return in June. Just another day in the office.”

To date, Sheffield Arena has hosted more than 2,700 events that have been seen by more than 14.5 million people, averaging 122 performances each year.

One of the most iconic shows in recent times was a homecoming concert by Pulp in December 2012, during which Richard Hawley took to the stage to perform with fellow Sheffielder Jarvis Cocker.

The gig paid homage to the band’s home city, with a rare performance of Sheffield: Sex City during the encore.

Sheffield Arena is no stranger to events that made history, however.

Bryan Adams recorded the video to his hit single There Will Never Be Another Tonight at the venue, while in 1992 Eric Cantona made his only appearance in a Sheffield Wednesday shirt when he played in a six-a-side fixture against Baltimore Blast.

Tina Turner played her final ever show there in May 2009, while Oasis’s first ever Arena gig was in Sheffield in 1995.

They debuted the song (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? on stage that night – a track which, legend has it, Noel Gallagher had only finished writing in the dressing room, immediately before the show.

Mr Bailey said: “When we reopen we will have two firsts for the venue.

“Miranda Hart is the first ever female comedian to headline a show at the Arena, while Jack Whitehall is also the first ever comedian to play an in-the-round comedy show at the venue.

“There are also many more shows to be announced over the coming months.”