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Team appointed for new Manchester arena

Oak View Group (OVG) has submitted plans for a new arena to Manchester City Council and a project team has been appointed.

The move comes after OVG said last month that building an arena in Manchester would be its first major project outside of the United States. It will be constructed on land next to the Etihad Stadium.

OVG has appointed the Royal BAM Group (BAM) as the preferred construction partner, and architect Populous to lead the team behind the proposed new 23,500-capacity arena in Manchester.

Other big hitters named alongside BAM and Populous as part of the project team include, BuroHappold, ME Engineers, Vanguardia,Turner & Townsend and Deloitte.

The planning submission said the development will comprise:

  • Construction of a world-class arena with a capacity of 20,000 (extendable to 23,500 for certain events/formats), and the inherent flexibility in event modes to capitalise on market opportunities and attract a wide range of major new events and formats to Manchester;
  • A supporting retail and leisure offer, including bars, retail concessions, pop-up retail spaces, hospitality spaces and lounges, together with a wide range of back of house and support facilities which will provide a truly exceptional event day experience for all customers;
  • High quality artist and backstage spaces and facilities including dressing rooms, a green room, games room and other management support spaces;
  • A comprehensive transport and movement strategy and associated operational management regime for facilitating the safe and efficient movement of people to and from the arena in all event scenarios;
  • An exemplar sustainability strategy which redefines existing planning policy and will deliver the most sustainable venue in the UK; and,
  • High quality public realm proposals and pedestrian connections.

In addition to its flexibility, the proposed arena will be compact and deliver an acoustically exceptional auditorium, providing an intimate as well as engaging fan experience for all.

Tim Leiweke, co-founder and chief executive of Oak View Group, said:

Manchester is a thriving city with an iconic history of world-leading music, sport and live entertainment. We live in unprecedented times and we stand in solidarity with everyone affected by this disease. We obviously have a particular concern for those who work in the live entertainment industry, which is hugely impacted by the current situation. But I know Manchester, and this city has always come back stronger from whatever has hit it. We are 100% committed for the long-haul.

The city has undergone transformational growth in recent years, but without a new state-of-the-art arena it will continue to lose out to other cities on some of the world’s best events.

He said the design brief for the new arena was three-fold: to deliver the best in class artist-fan experience for any arena in Europe; to have the flexibility to accommodate multiple event types so Manchester can host a broader range of music, sport and entertainment events; and to aim to build the most sustainable arena in the UK.

Objections raised

ASM Global, operators of Manchester Arena, issued a statement following the submission of OVG’s plans questioning the move. ASM Global said:

It is unfortunate that this planning application for an out of town arena has been submitted at an extremely challenging time for our City. The Council is understandably focused on keeping the people of Manchester safe and well, and we have been doing what we can to support the national effort, including offering all our venues as temporary hospitals or emergency shelters.

We are carefully reviewing the application documents that have been put forward alongside claims OVG has previously made around the impact to Greater Manchester’s transport, environment and economy.

ASM Global said that existing independent analysis on market demand from Oxford Economics and Grant Thornton is clear; that two 20,000 capacity arenas in Manchester are not sustainable and will drive events and footfall to an out of town location, with devastating effects to the city centre economy and the region’s air quality. The statement added:

Where two arenas exist in the same city elsewhere, they are not both in excess of 21,000 capacity. In London, there is one venue at 20,000 and a smaller venue at 12,500, with a population three times the size of Manchester. In Birmingham, there are two significantly smaller venues than Manchester Arena, operated by the same company, with total ticket sales across the two venues being equal to that of Manchester Arena.

 Taking Birmingham as the example, it is clear that adding a second arena at 20,000 capacity will simply split the existing number of events between two locations. Moving 50% of the City’s events to Eastlands will dramatically reduce the footfall to the City’s bars, restaurants and retail.

We sincerely hope that despite being submitted at a time of national crisis when attention is understandably focused on life saving efforts, this application will still receive proper scrutiny. We would urge the Council to carefully consider whether now is the time to approve plans that will further jeopardise our City Centre. We need to stand together to protect culture, entertainment and hospitality in the heart of Manchester.