Co-op Live: Plans to build UK’s largest arena in Manchester given green light


A state-of-the-art arena in East Manchester has been given the green light by Manchester City Council. The arena, which will have a maximum capacity of 23,500, making it the UK’s largest, will bring £350million of private investment to the city.

The Populous-designed arena, named Co-op Live, will be located on the Etihad campus in Manchester and continues the regeneration of the Eastlands area started by the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Developed following extensive consultation with local people, companies, and organizations, the venue will be the largest-capacity indoor arena in the UK, but also the most sustainable and energy-efficient. Sustainability has been at the heart of the design process and the venue has been specifically designed to support Manchester’s Zero Carbon 2038 commitments and will feature renewable energy usage. It will incorporate cutting-edge sustainability features to create an inclusive, low carbon and low waste venue, with a target of sending zero operational waste to landfill.

A view from inside the bowl of Co-op Live

During operation, the venue will benefit from the existing transport links to the Etihad Campus. OVG has committed to investing in improving walking and cycling routes, as well as funding an expanded Controlled Parking Zone to minimize disruption for local residents.

Following final confirmation from national planning authorities, Oak View Group plans to begin work as early as November, bringing 3,350 jobs during a three-year construction phase. The arena will create a further 1,000 jobs when the arena opens, which is projected to happen in 2023. OVG has committed to pay all employees at least the Manchester Living Wage and will prioritize hiring local people.

As part of the planning application, OVG commissioned independent research that indicated the arena will drive up to £1.5bn extra activity in the city’s economy. Further research showed that Manchester’s live entertainment market has the potential for an extra 2.05million visitors by 2035.

(Credit: Populous)

Manchester city center is predicted to receive £95m of the total audience spend of £165m by visitors to the two arenas. Restaurants and bars in the city center will experience an uplift of £25m from the operation of two arenas, with retail outlets capturing a £28m increase. Hotels and overnight accommodation in the city center will benefit from £35m extra spending. All of this represents a doubling of the expenditure by arena audiences for city center businesses.

This new venue will redefine the traditional arena model, offering all fans the best possible event experience. Inspired by Manchester’s role as a leading global center for music, sport and live entertainment, the transformer-like bowl will bring fans closer to the stage than at any comparable venue in Europe, as well as incorporating bespoke standing spaces throughout the venue, rather than only on the arena floor. As well as global artists, the arena can also be reconfigured for a range of events and opportunities to support a year-round event program.

(Credit: Populous) Co-op Live will function as a transformable space for live events

Designed in response to the Manchester and Eastlands urban environments, the bold contemporary form complements the public realm and combines aesthetic beauty with a recognizable and identifiable profile that will be globally recognized as being inspired by contemporary Manchester. The cutting-edge LED’s integrated into the facade will also create a seamless aesthetic between event and non-event modes, day and night.

This design approach extends to the spaces outside the building. Next to the arena there will be a new canal-side space with food and drink offerings that will be available for the public to enjoy on both event days and non-event days. The inclusive hard- and soft-landscaped routes to the venue will also help to create an exciting approach experience for audiences and the local community.

Proposals for the new venue at a site on the Etihad Campus were submitted in March following in-depth consultation with the local community. The final plans were shaped by community feedback and since then the project has received support from a wide crosssection of local stakeholders including local companies, MPs, ward councilors and a range of city center businesses.

Tim Leiweke, OVG’s co-founder and Chief Executive, said: “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”.

“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.”

Councillor Pat Karney, City Centre Spokesperson, said: “Today’s decision is about confidence in our city, Greater Manchester and the North West. It is about new employment and training opportunities for thousands across East Manchester and beyond at a time when they are badly needed. The city center, our communities and the wider city will be strengthened by our newest neighbor – Oak View Group Manchester. This is the next chapter in East Manchester’s regeneration.”

Construction of the venue is anticipated to begin in November, with events projected to commence in 2023.

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James has been Editor of Stadia since 2018 having worked at print and digital magazines and websites around the world covering everything from lifestyle to sport, technology, motoring, and more. He also edits Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International.

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