The Champion’s Arena is the largest stadium in the Queendom of East Mercia, where the annual Championship and regular Gladiator Tournaments are held. Straddling both Nottingham’s Inner and Outer Circles, the arena is built into the Wall and located just south of the Eye. The Arena’s grounds include Champion’s Square, which is situated in front of the stadium’s main entrance and is divided by the wall, placing the square in both the Inner and Outer Circle.
Architecture and history
The Arena is constructed in a neoclassical style, modelled closely on the Colosseum in Rome. Besides a series of renovations performed in 1911, it has largely stayed true to its original architecture.
The site on which it stands was designated by Queen Alviva II in 1656 after she relocated the Championships from their original site, now occupied by the University of Clifton. Queen Alviva’s arena was relatively basic, consisting of a sandpit and surrounding stands, but the shock of her murder in 1671 led her brother and successor, King John I, to commission a grand Arena in her honour. Construction was finally finished during the reign of John’s son, King Richard I, in 1723.
During the construction of the Wall in 2017, the Champion’s Arena was left intact and served to bisect the Wall, providing access to both the city’s Inner and Outer Circles.
Since 1950, Champions have been rewarded by having a statue of themselves erected on Champion’s Square, in front of the Arena’s main entrance. There are thirty statues on Champion’s Square, with two rows of fifteen forming a walkway that leads to the main entrance, dubbed the ‘Champion’s Entrance’ in urban vernacular. The Wall splits Champions square, leaving one row of statues on the Inner Circle side and the other fifteen on the Outer Circle side. With every new Champion, an old statue is removed and either offered to the Champion’s estate, gifted to a museum or destroyed.
The Championships continue to take place each year, following the original structure as it was in the 14th Century. There are five titles that competitors may win across the trials: Marksman (archery), Fleetfoot (obstacle courses), Swordsman (armed combat), Gunner (ballistic weapons) and Warrior (strategy). The competitor with the most points scored across all five disciplines is named Champion.
The record for most titles held by an individual Champion belongs to Robyn Loxley, who has won the Championship seven times. After Robyn was reported to have fallen at the Promised Land Campaign, the people of East Mercia laid flowers at her statues to commemorate their most successful Champion.
Citizens of Nottingham celebrate the Championship each year with a week-long festival celebrating healthy living and sporting prowess.
Gladiator fights have taken place at the Arena since its construction in 1673 as both a form of entertainment to unite the then tumultuous city, as well as a convenient means of keeping criminality low. The fights ceased in 1968 after public calls for them to be abolished due to their archaic and barbaric nature.
The fights were reintroduced to the Arena in 2018 by King John II and his government. Their reintroduction was a response to the growing unrest across the state and in particular to the terrorist attacks on Nottingham Castle that took the life of Queen Isobel. In the gladiator fights, convicted criminals battle for their freedom; the longer the sentence, the more rounds a convicted felon needs to perform. In the Arena, criminals battle professional gladiators who are often soldiers commissioned by the government. On very rare occasions, criminals will battle each other in the Arena.