02 May 2024

‘Co-Flop’ Arena being monitored after embarrassing opening fiasco

02 May 2024

A crisis-hit new music venue is being “monitored closely” as contractors continue work to complete the £365 million Co-op Live arena in Manchester.

The biggest indoor arena in the UK postponed its opening show for the third time as fans queued outside just minutes before doors opened on Wednesday evening for what was meant to be its first official event.

The 23,500-capacity venue aims to attract big-name acts away from London as well as awards shows and sporting events.

The Eagles, Janet Jackson and Eric Clapton are due to play the arena, but so far only a test event by Rick Astley has gone ahead.

It is understood a nozzle from the ventilation and air conditioning system fell to the ground from the ceiling shortly before last night’s event.

No one was injured but the venue management decided to pull the plug on the performance from Bronx rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie.

Thousands of fans, for the third time, were left disappointed after turning up for an event only for it to be cancelled.

The “embarrassing” fiasco has led to questions and criticism of how the arena’s opening has been handled.

Sacha Lord, appointed by mayor Andy Burnham, as the night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, made his first statement about the issues with the Arena to the PA news agency on Thursday.

He said: “As with all event venues, the safety of staff and customers is the highest priority even if that means there are delays.

“We are monitoring the situation closely.”

The main contractor for the arena, the construction firm BAM said: “The safety of fans and staff is our number one priority.

“Unfortunately, in the run-up to last night’s concert, an issue arose that meant the difficult decision was made to cancel the event.

“We apologise for the inconvenience that this has caused for many.

“Our team continues to work diligently on completing works to the arena.”

Manchester City Council said the authority’s building control is yet to sign the building off, though this is routine procedure until all “snagging” is completed and venues can operate without a completion certificate.

Earlier opening shows had attendances slashed and eventually events pulled after an issue with emergency services communications systems.

The arena, run by US-based Oak View Group, has confirmed shows by US musician Olivia Rodrigo as part of her world tour would not now go ahead on May 3 and 4.

Tim Leiweke, chairman and chief executive of the Oak View Group, said: “The safety and security of all visiting and working on Co-op Live is our utmost priority, and we could not and will not run any event until it is absolutely safe to do so.

“I deeply apologise for the impact that this has had on ticket holders and fans.”

The Co-operative Group, which has reportedly paid up to £100m in a 15-year deal to have its name on the ill-fated arena, said it will seek a “full explanation” from Oak View Group.

In a statement the firm said: “As the naming rights sponsor for Co-op Live, we are shocked at the incident which has led to late cancellation of tonight’s show at the arena.

“We are relieved that no-one has been injured, but we share the disappointment and frustration of ticket holders, many of whom are Co-op members, with the continuing delay to the opening of Co-op Live and the disruption that this is causing to everyone who has been looking forward to attending events.

“We will be seeking a full explanation from Oak View Group (OVG), who are responsible for the building, to the obvious questions arising from this, together with a clear plan from the Co-op Live venue management team at OVG for opening the venue and postponed and future events.”

It is embarrassing really and you do wonder what’s gone on in the planning or development. There seems to be a lot of problems

Steve Millington, professor of place management at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “In the short term, it’s not good is it?

“It is embarrassing really and you do wonder what’s gone on in the planning or development. There seems to be a lot of problems.

“Ultimately in the long-run, in 10 years time, nobody will be talking about this, but you do wonder what the Co-op are getting out of this.

“People were asking questions whether Manchester needed a second indoor arena, three miles down the road from the one in the city centre.”

Co-op Live had already postponed its opening twice last week after rescheduling performances from Peter Kay and The Black Keys, and had reassured fans that A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Rodrigo’s shows would be going ahead this week.

There's been disaster after disaster, surely they should be either cancelling the lot and giving people a positive way to move forward or just say something

Maureen Mills, 68, from Southport, is due to see Take That perform at the arena next Tuesday, but is waiting for answers from Co-op Live to determine whether the event will go ahead.

Ms Mills, a retired marine insurance consultant, told the PA news agency: “I haven’t had any correspondence apart from me sending a Twitter message to (Co-op Live) today. I’ve heard nothing back.

“We’ve been quite frustrated watching what’s been going on. As it gets closer to next Tuesday, we thought surely they should be saying something now.

“There’s been disaster after disaster, surely they should be either cancelling the lot and giving people a positive way to move forward or just say something.

“I think they need to be professional and take a step back and stop trying to launch the area when it’s clearly not ready. They should tell people well in advance and get their act into gear.”

The arena’s general manager, Gary Roden, announced his resignation last week.

OVG Run around 400 venues across the world, mainly in North America, but this is its first venture in the UK, the firm’s website promising, “synergistic opportunities in the live entertainment space globally”.

OVG claims the Co-op Live arena will be “world leading” boasting their venues “go beyond the limits of what we once thought possible to deliver the very best in live entertainment.”

Harry Styles has invested in the project, in the shadow of Manchester City FC’s Etihad stadium, the arena a joint venture with OVG and the club’s owner’s City Football Group

The venue will generate an estimated £1.5bn for the local economy, according to OVG.

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