Also known as the Telewest Arena, Metro Radio Arena and now Utilita Arena.
As a touring artist, if you were looking to visit the North East to play at a venue, then the choice was pretty limited. You could hire the Newcastle City Hall, or even the Whitley Bay ice rink, but these could only house a few thousand fans, so the North East was often overlooked and fans would have to travel to Sheffield or Glasgow to see their favourite bands.
The opportunity to have a large arena for music, sport and entertainment was eventually realised by a local musician called Chas Chandler, who was the bassist for the Animals and manager of Jimi Hendrix and Slade. Together with his business partner Nigel Stanger. The arena received a grant from the Tyne & Wear Development Corporation of £2.5 million to help towards the total cost of £10.6m to complete the build.
The arena was unveiled as the Newcastle Arena on 18 November 1995 and its first event was a basketball game between the Newcastle Comets and Doncaster Panthers, before it had an official opening event in January 1998 by the ice skaters Torville and Dean. Chandler never saw the official opening, having died in 1996.
However both Chandler and Stanger had both sold their stakes in the arena and full control was taken up by the Ogden Corporation and a sponsorship deal was struck in 1997 with a Telewest (a telecommunications company), giving the arena its first official name of the Telewest Arena.
A few years later in 2000, the arena was then further sold to SMG, an international events management company for the sum of $240m.
The Telewest Arena had a seating capacity of 11,000, but was totally configurable for different events and could easily reduce its size for smaller sporting events such as basketball and ice shows. Also used as an exhibition venue, the seats could easily be removed giving from 3,700m2 to 36,00m2 of floor space. The Telewest Arena was now the largest concert and exhibition venue in the North East.
Following the expiration of the deal with Telewest, a new sponsorship deal was brokered in 2004 with the popular local radio station Metro Radio, giving the new name of Metro Radio Arena which most people probably call the arena to this day.
The arena hosted some of the top musical acts such as Bryan Adams, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Kylie, Wet Wet Wet Metallica, One Direction, Little Mix, Elton John, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Cher, Spice Girls, Iron Maiden, Take That and local lad Sam Fender to name a few.
In 2019, the arena was further renamed with a new sponsorship with an energy company and is now called the Utilita Arena. ASM Global assumed management of the arena following on from SMG.
The website was originally managed by the Evening Chronicle, before members of their digital team set up their own agency, wayfresh, taking the Newcastle Arena with them. The team at wayfresh provided web design for the Newcastle Arena for 23 years from 1999 until 2022, when ASM Global took control in house.