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Arena ready to rock
StillWater Giants perform at the new arena. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian

After years of delays and a bill of $550 million, Perth Arena finally opened its doors to the public last night for a free concert starring local acts Drapht, Split Seconds, Sugar Army and Stillwater Giants.

The venue initially derided as looking like a crushed beer can was more like the Death Star from the film Return of the Jedi - incomplete but operational.

Workers in hardhats rushed around as the bands did a sound check yesterday.

By 9pm, more than half the expected 8000-strong crowd had arrived, enjoying both the excellent sound and offerings from the arena's bars.

Sir Elton John officially opens WA's new concert venue - and the $70 million retractable roof - with a performance under the stars next Saturday.

Even before the venue was put through its paces, leading Australian promoters said the Arena was a welcome addition to the national entertainment market.

Sydney promoter Michael Chugg said Perth Arena would attract more concerts and pull in more people to see them.

"Finally they can go and see their band in a decent venue," he said.

"Some acts would refuse to play the Dome (at Crown, formerly Burswood Dome) and didn't want to play outdoors, so I think this will make it a lot more viable to come to Perth."

He said Perth Arena's capacity of more than 12,000 for "end-stage" concerts linked in well with major concert venues in other capital cities.

Promoter Paul Dainty said that while the Dome had hosted some great concerts, the venue was not fan-friendly.

"It's been a bandaid solution for many years," he said from London, where he is working on the Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary shows.

"It was a great shame when they shut the Perth Entertainment Centre (in 2002), which would have filled the gap waiting for the Arena to open."

Mr Dainty said it was unbelievable that Perth had gone without a proper purpose-built concert arena for a decade.

The State Government-owned Perth Arena is managed by AEG Ogden, which also runs Allphones Arena in Sydney and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

AEG Ogden national group director of arenas Tim Worton said the company aimed to have about 85 to 100 events a year in the Arena, including basketball and Hopman Cup tennis.

"The concerts financially bankroll the buildings, to be honest," he said.