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OVG’s Manchester arena plans progress amid Covid-19

“We are 100% committed for the long-haul”: Oak View Group’s Tim Lieweke confirms intention to move forward with new Manchester arena planning

By IQ on 02 Apr 2020

OVG's Manchester arena plans progress amid Covid-19

An artist's impression of the arena's canalside terrace

image © OVG

Venue development company Oak View Group (OVG) has published the planning documents for its new arena in Manchester, which it estimates will bring 750,000 to 1.05 million additional arena ticket sales annually to the city.

OVG today (2 April) announced the appointment of the Royal BAM Group (BAM) as its preferred construction partner, and Populous, the architecture design firm behind Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, the O2 and Wembley Stadium, as the architect of the new arena.

The progression of the plans for the 23,500-capacity arena, which would be the largest privately financed venue in the UK, with £350 million direct investment going into the city, indicates OVG’s commitment to moving the project forward despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

OVG – the global sports and entertainment company founded by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff in 2015 – confirmed its plans for the new Manchester arena last month. The venue will go head to head with the existing ASM Global-operated Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.). An ASM Global spokesperson says it is “unfortunate” that the planning application for the new arena has been submitted “at an extremely challenging time for our city”.

“We live in unprecedented times and we stand in solidarity with everyone affected by this disease,” comments Tim Leiweke, co-founder and CEO of OVG. “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.”

“I know Manchester, and this city has always come back stronger from whatever has hit it”

The design brief for the arena, explains Leiweke, has three main aims – to deliver “the best artist-fan experience of any arena in Europe”, to have the flexibility to accommodate multiple event types, and to be “the most sustainable arena in the UK”.

OVG also states that the arena will generate 3,350 jobs during construction and over 1,000 once opened, paying Manchester Living Wage or higher.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the guidance and feedback from local people and the city’s business community over the last seven months. We are confident the plans we are presenting today are extremely beneficial for the city and will put Manchester on the global entertainment map for decades.”

Leiweke says that studies have indicated Manchester’s capacity to support two successful arenas, “even under the most conservative growth projections”.

The potential saturation of Manchester’s large arena market was discussed at the International Live Music Conference in March. Tom Lynch of ASM Global maintained that comments around Manchester’s capacity for two arenas have been “wildly misunderstood”, whereas OVG’s Brian Kabatznick offered Birmingham as an example of a UK city that “has seen a lot of success with two arenas”.

“Two 20,000-capacity arenas in Manchester are not sustainable and will drive events and footfall to an out of town location”

Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena, which is part of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) site, last month outlined plans to increase its capacity by a further 6,000 to 21,500.The neighbouring NEC is one of a number of UK venues serving as field hospitals as the country copes with the coronavirus crisis.

“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,” reads an ASM Global statement.

“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.”

According to ASM, where two arenas do exist in the same city – as is the case in London and Birmingham – either one or both of the venues are “significantly smaller” than Manchester Arena.

“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.”


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