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Manchester approves new £350 million Co-op Live arena

Work on the 23,500-capacity venue could start in a matter of weeks and the project could generate 10,000 jobs

|Sep 28|magazine10 min read

Proposals for a new ‘world-class’ indoor music and sports arena in east Manchester have been approved by Manchester Council’s planning committee, with construction on the 23,500-capacity venue potentially beginning in a matter of weeks, it has been announced.

Located next to the Etihad Stadium, the venue - scheduled to open in 2023 - will be the largest of its kind in the UK and named 'Co-op Live' Arena following the announcement of a 15-year naming deal on Saturday.

Following final confirmation from national planning authorities, the project will create 3,350 jobs during a three-year construction period and support a further 6,000 jobs in construction across Greater Manchester, as well as 1,000 more on opening. Oak View Group hope to mobilise work on site by November.

“We’re delighted that Manchester City Council has given our proposals the go-ahead, and we can’t wait to get started, bringing a £350million private investment, creating thousands of jobs, and delivering one of the world’s best arenas to this amazing city,” says Tim Leiweke, OVG’s co-founder and Chief Executive.

Feasibility studies for a new venue on a 4.4-hectare plot of land began last year. The plot is bordered by the Ashton Canal, Alan Turing Way and Joe Mercer Way on the Bradford side of the Etihad Campus, and is currently used as overspill car parking. OVG canvassed the opinions of those living nearby the site and held more than 50 community and public consultation events before plans were formally submitted just prior to lockdown in March.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the community for taking the time to listen to what we had to say and providing feedback that ensured this arena is of Manchester, for Manchester and by Manchester," Leiweke adds.

The planning meeting, held via video conference, heard that the £350 million injection was an ‘unprecedented private investment’ in the city and that it had not been affected by the COVID-19 crisis and current suspension of live events. Councillors representing the surrounding areas entered discussions, with and the consensus was the project would provide a much-needed economic boost of the area.

Sam Piccione III, President, OVG International, said: “We started discussions with Co-op over a year ago, and knew from the very first meeting that they were the right partner for our new venue in Manchester. We’ve worked hard together throughout the challenging recent months to bring the right deal together. Co-op is both one of the UK’s most recognisable brands and deeply embedded in the local community, so it’s a privilege to partner with them for the next 15 years.” 

Ancoats and Beswick ward councillor Majid Dar says that residents he had spoken to had "in general welcomed the investment” in the area and that he believed it would bring “significant benefits to the whole of East Manchester.” Miles Platting and Newton Heath councillor John Flanagan adds that East Manchester is one of the most deprived parts of the city, with some of the highest levels of unemployment, early deaths and so on. He termed the project as being ‘a beacon of light to our area. A very big, tangible investment’.

The application and notice of the council's decision will be now sent to the national planning policy unit and they will make a recommendation to the secretary of state as to whether it should be called in. This is normally reserved for applications of national significance and an OVG insider says they believe such a move is unlikely. The company state the new arena will be a "best-in-class sustainable venue, with renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low carbon technologies integral to the design."

Illuminated by LED lights on its facade, and with removable seating in its bowl, the developer says it will be accompanied by its own "supporting retail and leisure offerings" including bars, retail concessions, pop-up retail spaces, hospitality spaces and lounges.

However, the operators of the existing Manchester Arena, recently renamed the AO Arena, which is located in the city centre, have raised their concerns about a rival venue opening up as they believe it could force them out of business and that the council’s decision has put their own expansion and redevelopment plans in jeopardy.

In March, ASM Global revealed plans to increase the capacity of the Manchester Arena to 24,000 as part of a major upgrade.

“We are, of course, wholly disappointed in today’s decision, which we feel completely negates the concerns of both ourselves and many key city centre stakeholders. These concerns are backed by compelling evidence that shows there is simply no market for a second major arena in Manchester. This decision will have a significantly adverse impact for our existing arena, and the wider city centre businesses and attractions it supports,” a statement from ASM says.

Co-op Live statement
Construction Global magazine