14 May 2024

Co-op Live incident could have been catastrophic – arena boss

14 May 2024

The boss of the troubled Co-op Live arena in Manchester has said an incident with its ventilation and air conditioning system could have been “catastrophic” if it had happened just 15 minutes later.

The venue is finally due to open on Tuesday with a performance from Elbow, following a string of setbacks.

The biggest indoor arena in the UK had postponed its opening show for the third time after part of its ventilation and air conditioning system fell to the ground from the ceiling during a soundcheck in early May.

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of the arena’s operator Oak View Group, said the fittings have since been “triple checked”.

He told BBC News he was confident it was “the safest building in the world”, adding there had been “no way” they could have known the ventilation was not installed correctly.

“They didn’t put the bolts in. It wasn’t visible to the eye,” he said. “And it fell out.

“So we [have since] got that double checked and triple checked. We’ve looked at thousands of bolts up in that ceiling now. We’ve looked at the life safety lines. And we were going to take our time to make sure we did this right.

“There was no way we were opening the doors until we checked every screw and every bolt and every one of those 95 shafts.”

Rock band Elbow, who hail from Manchester, are now set to open the £365 million venue on Tuesday after it announced it was “satisfied” the issue was an “isolated manufacturing default” following an inspection.

The band shared a picture of what appeared to be the stage inside the venue ahead of the scheduled show, writing on X: “Ready for tomorrow at @TheCoopLive arena. See you there.”

Issues at the Co-op Live arena began after a test event in April led to the rescheduling of comedian Peter Kay’s stand-up show dates.

Kay, who was meant to be the “first artist in the world to perform at Manchester Co-op Live” according to promotional posters, had his shows postponed twice as the venue was still not ready to open.

The problems also led to the venue rescheduling a Black Keys gig.

The venue then planned for US rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie to open the arena on May 1, however it was called off just over an hour before his performance with fans queuing outside, due to the ventilation system becoming detached.

The issue meant scheduled performances from US pop star Olivia Rodrigo and British band Keane were postponed, while a slew of shows by Take That were moved to the AO Arena in Manchester.

Last week, East Sussex rock band Keane announced their postponed gig has been rescheduled for October 19, while new dates are yet to be announced for Rodrigo.

At the time, Co-op Live said an inspection would need to take place to ensure it was a one-time default.

Last week, the venue confirmed Elbow would be opening the arena on Tuesday and added a headline performance from US rapper Travis Scott – who will be bringing his Circus Maximus Tour on July 13.

The venue is a joint venture between Oak View Group, co-founded by Leiweke and US music mogul Irving Azoff, and City Football Group, owned by billionaire UAE royal and deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour.

Harry Styles is among the other investors.

Leiweke told the BBC he’d had “a couple of conversations” with the singer in recent weeks, adding: “Harry was just checking in on us because he knows what we went through.

“And look, this was hard. So he’s a good friend and a good partner, and he’s cheering us on and he’ll be here soon.”

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