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OVG confirms interest in new Manchester arena

Oak View Group has officially confirmed it hopes to bring a major new venue, which would rival SMG's Manchester Arena, to Manchester City's Etihad Campus in Eastlands

By Jon Chapple on 21 Aug 2019

The OVG arena will be located at Etihad Campus, home to Manchester City FC's Etihad Stadium

The OVG arena would be located at Etihad Campus, home to Manchester City FC's Etihad Stadium

image © Airviews Photography/Flickr

Oak View Group (OVG) has formally confirmed its interest in building a major new concert venue in Manchester, its first in the UK, IQ can reveal.

In partnership with Manchester City FC owner City Football Group, feasibility studies are already underway for the new arena, whose preferred location would be the Etihad Campus – the site of the club’s ground, Etihad Stadium – in Eastlands, in the east of Manchester, Britain’s second-most populous city.

Oak View Group, a venue development, advisory and investment company co-founded by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, launched its London-based overseas division, OVG International, at ILMC in March. The first OVG International project, Santa Giulia Arena in Milan, was announced in June.

In a statement, OVG says it is working with City Football Group “as part of its commitment to continuing the growth of Eastlands and the Etihad Campus as a thriving community and world-leading sporting and leisure destination”.

Leiweke, OVG’s chief executive, says: “Manchester is an amazing city with a proud music and sporting history, and one that we believe would see substantial benefits from a new arena. East Manchester, in particular, has a strong track record in entertainment and hosting major events.

“We believe Manchester would see substantial benefits from a new arena”

“Over the last two decades, Manchester has consistently ranked in the top five global cities for arena events. A new world-class arena would create thousands of skilled jobs, apprenticeship and training programmes, and generate significant additional revenue for businesses in the city.”

OVG’s confirmation of its interest in Manchester comes amid controversy over plans for a second arena in the city, with SMG Europe, operator of the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, warning that a new venue could put its property out of business.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News in June, SMG’s EVP of European operations, John Sharkey, said “there is not a market for two 20,000-capacity venues [in Manchester]. We are going to see a council report that says there is, but there isn’t.”

“Invariably, one of these venues is going to fail if you build two,” he continued. “Why not work with the existing one? I think there’s a jeopardy situation if it’s granted.”

In July, it emerged that SMG had hired PR firm FleishmanHillard Fishburn to distribute leaflets on behalf of a group called ‘Friends of Eastlands’ which appeared to suggest Manchester City Council intended to invest in the arena, which would actually be 100% privately funded.

“We are delighted to be working closely with City Football Group as we begin this initial phase of consultation”

One city councillor, Sir Richard Leese, described the leaflet as “very misleading” and “one of the most outrageous things I’ve seen in a long, long time”, though SMG countered that it merely argued a new arena would require investment in infrastructure and policing, ultimately paid for by the public.

The public spat has echoes of the row between SMG-allied AEG and Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) in London, where the O2 operator AEG was accused in June of creating a residents’ group to oppose MSG’s Sphere arena.

“Understanding the priorities of the community will be a critical part of any proposal, and we are delighted to be working closely with City Football Group as we begin this initial phase of consultation,” adds Leiweke.

In addition to Milan, OVG is leading arena projects at the Key Arena in Seattle, Belmont in New York, the University of Texas in Austin and in Palm Springs in California.


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