Essex Sports Arena

Clague Architects was contracted to design a world-class sporting arena for a top 50 UK university. Working closely with planners and the university, Clague delivered the £12m Essex Sports Arena, Colchester – a high-quality facility suitable for staging televised sporting events. With a capacity of more 1,600 spectators and covering over 3,600m2, the arena is a prime example of innovate and bespoke design in the Higher Education (HE) sector.

Our design has delivered a new home for the School of Sports Rehabilitation & Exercise Science, which will train the next generation of coaches and practitioners by co-locating academics and researchers alongside high-quality sports facilities.

During the design process, local planners initially wanted timber cladding as the arena sits within the 200-acre historic parkland of Wivenhoe Park, close to the Grade II listed Wivenhoe Manor, two miles from the city centre.

Taking the inspiration from Wivenhoe Manor’s brickwork, we successfully persuaded local planners to accept a bespoke bronze cladding on the outside of the arena.

The original proposal for the cladding wasn’t in keeping with the brief or the wishes of the university, and from a facilities management perspective it would require significant and early maintenance.

We identified a planning precedent and secured permission for the use of the cladding. The result is a building that will make a strong visual statement of the University’s commitment to having a campus of international standard, and facilities for its students, staff and community.

The arena was opened by Max Whitlock MBE and the University of Essex’s Chancellor, Rt Hon John Bercow.