24 from 2024: New arenas in focus
Asia is one of the hottest places at the moment when it comes to new arenas coming on stream. Multiple venues are in development in South Korea and Japan, while Thailand, Indonesia, and Hong Kong are hot on their heels in terms of new openings. And development work in Saudi Arabia is also very active, with at least three new arenas in the offing, as the country seeks to attract more forms of entertainment for its significant young population.
Live Nation, Oak View Group (OVG), and ASM Global are at the forefront of most of these huge projects, some of which are funded by governments or major developers as part of significant regeneration and redevelopment projects. And, while construction costs are going through the roof, and inflation is proving stickier than anyone would like, it’s not dampening the desire to create exciting new spaces for people to watch live entertainment.
As OVG’s EVP facilities development Brian Kabatznick tells us: “We haven’t lost our enthusiasm for building new arenas or acquiring existing arenas, as you’ll see over the coming months, as there’ll be a few more announcements from Oak View Group that shows our continued momentum.”
The demand for big stages is not limited to arenas, and 2022 saw an 81% increase in grosses from stadium shows compared to 2019, with ticket sales up 49% (source: Pollstar). And 2023 is seeing unprecedented activity worldwide with the likes of Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and more.
So is this new era of stadium shows affecting arenas? Kabatznick doesn’t think so. “I think [this situation] ebbs and flows. The arenas all had great years in 2022 and 2023, as did stadiums. Some of those artists that are playing stadiums now will probably do an arena tour at some point, because it’s self-contained and the costs are more manageable. I don’t think it’s competitive. I think it’s cooperative. And I think it’s great for business that artists are touring, and fans are going – how wonderful is that?”
With so many new arenas in the pipeline, it puts pressure on existing venues to up their game to remain competitive. Consumers experiencing these best-in-class new spaces will have higher expectations of existing venues – something operators are acutely aware of.
That’s why you’ll see that many VIP products have diverse pricing and seating options. The days of one VIP box holder that’s beholden to a three-year lease contract seem to be numbered as arenas recognise that small businesses or couples also want a VIP experience, for special occasions or hospitality reasons.
Food and beverage continue to evolve, especially gluten-free; vegan and vegetarian options; and locally sourced food. “Sustainability is a key for us, and organic food,” says Kabatznick. “But ultimately, it all comes down to price, product, and service. If you’re able to give the customer quality and diversity of the unit at a good price, that’s our goal.
“Ultimately, what does the consumer want? Great sightlines; great acoustics; great food and beverages; easy access to toilets; public transportation options.”
Here, we look at some of the key venues being built around the world…
Scheduled opening date: December 2025
Saudi Arabia is about to go through a venue-building boom time. And with a population of 35m – over a third of them aged 15–34 – this is a market with huge potential.
Among the first to come on stream is Jeddah Arena, a state-of-the-art venue with a capacity of 20,000 that will be managed by ASM Global. It is being built as part of the Jeddah Airport City complex, which will include shops, homes, a financial district, an artisans’ district, and a green food-yard.
“There are some very aggressive plans for new arenas in Saudi Arabia. The desire for people to see live events in Saudi Arabia is wonderful to see. When all the venues are completed there could be potential for a touring circuit of the country itself,” says Iain Campbell, ASM Global’s EVP MENA region.
“Jeddah Arena and the neighbouring exhibition centre is on a cracking site and in a cracking location, right by the airport and with a shopping precinct built, too.”
Scheduled opening date: April 2024
One of the largest arenas in the world will open next year, as the Oak View Group/City Football Group’s Co-op Live comes on-stream. With a capacity of 23,500, the venue will have 32 bars and restaurants, 28 VIP suites, 12 lounges, and 2,000 premium seats. There will be 14 dressing rooms, backstage offices, and a 330-tonne rigging capacity to accommodate the biggest shows.
Claiming to be one of the planet’s “most pioneering, sustainable, and socially responsible venues,” the £356m venue has been designed primarily as a music space, with an innovative “bowl” design and cutting-edge soundproofing, it’s projected that it will host more than 120 major events a year. “Co-op Live will redefine arenas in Europe, due to capacity, sustainability, premium seating, and food & beverage experiences,” says Oak View Group’s Brian Kabatznick.
The Sage Arena
Scheduled opening date: 2025
ASM Global will programme the new 12,500-seat arena being built as part of a huge development project in the northeast city of Newcastle. A £10m naming rights deal with global accountancy software company Sage (which was founded in the city) will see it called The Sage Arena. The £650m (€755m) development is being designed with cutting-edge acoustics and is projected to attract over 1m additional visitors each year.
Scheduled opening date: Late 2025/early 2026
Now in the final stages of design, the 19,000-capacity venue is now scheduled to open in late 2025 or early 2026 – about a year behind the previously anticipated date, due to Covid- and construction industry-related delays. Nonetheless, work has already started on key pieces of infrastructure required for the southwest of England’s long-awaited new arena, including new road connections, establishing new power supplies, and site preparation works.
YTL Arena will be operated predominantly as a music venue, with approximately 70–75% of programming being concerts. It seeks to be carbon neutral from day one. It will have the region’s largest columnless exhibition and convention halls with 6,000m2 of floor area, height clearance of 21 metres, and banqueting capacity for 4,000, together with a flexible hub for entertainment, film, TV, and music rehearsals.
Cardiff Atlantic Wharf Arena
Scheduled opening date: Spring 2025
Cardiff’s largest arena currently is the 7,500-capacity Motorpoint Arena (which opened in 1993), but that will all change when a new 17,000-capacity venue opens in 2025, jointly operated by Live Nation and Oak View Group. Programming will be mostly music, although it is also expected to host family shows, some sports, and other live entertainment. The single-tier design of the interior aims to intensify the experience of audience and artists, and it can be configured for as few as 3,500 people.
When planning permission was granted in 2022, Graham Walters, Live Nation UK Venues – chief operating officer, said: “We are delighted with this decision, one of the most significant and landmark developments in the region for some years, and we look forward to delivering our vision for a new arena with our partners and Cardiff Council. A world-class arena, with a global reputation for culture, will transform Atlantic Wharf for local, national, and international visitors to Cardiff, as well as facilitate job creation and economic growth in the region.”
Scheduled opening date: TBC
Bavaria’s forthcoming state-of-the-art venue will not only have a capacity of 20,000 but also aims to be the country’s first climate-neutral arena.
“The project pursues the highest demands not only in architecture and interior design but also in the topics of sustainability, transport, and the environment,” says the company behind the development, SWMUNICH Real Estate, which is investing €300m. London-based architects POPULOUS (also involved with Co-op Live, O2 Arena, and Climate Pledge Arena) is designing the venue, which will have large amounts of green space.
Milano Santa Giulia (MSG) Arena
Scheduled opening date: 2025
May 2023 saw work start on this new project from CTS Eventim, which will see “the largest and most modern multifunctional hall in Italy” built in Milan. Construction on the 16,000-capacity venue is expected to take two and a half years, according to the multinational ticketing and live entertainment company. The project design includes a piazza with more than 10,000m2 of space for festivals and open-air events.
Initially, the arena – part of the Milano Santa Giulia urban development project – will be used for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games, after which CTS will continue to operate it. The venue will compete with Oak View Group and Live Nation’s Santa Giulia Arena – which will also be used in the Olympics – as well as the 12,700-seat Mediolanum Forum in Assago, near Milan, which has served the city since 1990 and is one of two Italian members of the European Arena Association (EAA). Other CTS Eventim venues include the Lanxess Arena (cap. 18,000) in Cologne, the KB Hallen (4,500) in Copenhagen, the Waldbühne (22,290) in Berlin, and the Eventim Apollo (2,500) in London.
Scheduled opening date: 2027
A new €100m ice hockey arena that is also expected to host concerts is due to open in the southwestern city of Turku before the end of the decade. The 10,000-capacity venue is expected to add to Finland’s existing infrastructure, such as the 15,500-capacity Nokia Arena and the Helsinki Halli (currently closed due to its owners’ links to Russia). Also in Turku is the Gatorade Center, from where Heidi Aho says: “With the financial backing we got from the city, I think that’s something to look forward to, and we believe that it will put Turku on the map in the European live entertainment circuit.”
MSG Sphere at the Venetian
Scheduled opening date: 2023
Much has been made of the $1.9bn venue in Sin City, which will be wrapped in a 580,000 sqft of fully programmable LED exterior. The 20,000-standing-capacity venue (17,500 seated) boasts a multi-layered audio system equipped with beamforming technology to deliver targeted, crystal clear, and consistent audio to every seat. Multisensory technologies, such as immersive seating, scents, and changing temperatures, will enable producers to create unique experiences and productions.
As the first band to play at the eye-popping new venue, U2 will perform their Achtung Baby album on a number of dates from 29 September to 8 December, with tickets priced from $267.88–$1,495.
Las Vegas Arena
Scheduled opening date: TBC
Oak View Group announced plans last year for a $3bn development in Las Vegas, made up of a hotel, casino, and 20,000-capacity arena on a 66.5-acre plot near Harry Reid International Airport. “We’re going to go after every big event that exists,” CEO Tim Leiweke said at the time. “It’s exclusive, it’s high-end, and it will be built in a way where it’s the perfect experience for those willing to spend the money to have the greatest experience.”
South America Arena São Paulo
Arena São Paulo
Scheduled opening date: 2024
To the surprise of many, the fourth largest city in the world doesn’t have a quality arena. So, Oak View Group, Live Nation, and GL events have partnered to build what Brian Kabatznick of OVG says will be “the greatest arena in Latin America.” He says the arrival of the 20,000-capacity venue, which will host concerts, sport, family entertainment, and more, will be a game-changer for the region. “Routing in Latin America today skews more toward festivals and stadiums because there’s a football stadium in every market, whereas arenas are limited. But with São Paulo coming on stream, and GL Events managing the Jeunesse Arena in Rio, you’ll see that there’ll be a defined next generation of artists and venues coming to the marketplace that has never been seen before.”
He says the venue will have premium seating at various price points, and seating locations, and that despite being 20,000-capacity, it “will have a very intimate environment … the ceiling of the roof of the building will be lower than typically and the bowl will be much closer to the stage.”
Scheduled opening date: 2023
With a seating capacity of up to 16,500, this brand-new arena in one of Asia’s most populous countries is set to open in time for the FIBA World Basketball Championship 2023. Located in Jakarta, it will mainly host sports but can also be used for concerts and other events. It is being designed to reflect the traditional wicker baskets made in the country.
Mohegan Inspire Arena
Scheduled opening date: Q4 2023
Billed as the nation’s first multipurpose arena, the 15,000-seater Mohegan Inspire Arena promises to “transform the entire landscape of the domestic performance arts industry”. The venue, which will form the centrepiece of Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort, is projected to welcome four million guests a year.
“Given the strong demand for K-pop and other live performances, Korea’s performing art industry has long been facing a shortage of high-quality venues that can support shows of top-tier artists from home and abroad and various cultural events,” says Ray Pineault, CEO and president of Mohegan. “This perhaps explains the expectations building around the Mohegan Inspire Arena far ahead of its construction completion.
“This new venue is poised to emerge as Korea’s first multipurpose arena that can showcase various types of events, encompassing global artist performances, world-class sports league tournaments such as e-sports, MMA, TV award shows, and media IP-based exhibitions.” Mohegan also operates the 10,000-cap Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, US.
Scheduled opening date: TBC
Live Nation is partnering with Korea’s Busan Metropolitan City to develop a new arena and multicultural entertainment complex in South Korea’s second most populous city. The new destination will include a 20,000-capacity arena, an exhibition centre, hotels, and an educational facility to foster talent in K-pop and K-culture.
Live Nation will manage the venue, with the local Live Nation Korea team also providing expertise on content and concert promotion to book talent. “As we continue to expand our global venue business, Busan will be an important touring hub for global superstars who are touring more of the world, as well as K-pop and local artists,” said Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino. “We’re excited to help create more opportunities for artists and fans to connect, while also contributing to the growing tourism in the city.”
CJ LiveCity Arena
Scheduled opening date: 2024
The 20,000-capacity venue is being built as part of AEG and CJ LiveCity Corporation’s new K-pop-focused entertainment complex in Goyang City, Seoul. As part of a 1.8tn-won development, it also includes an outdoor performance space capable of accommodating 40,000 people.
Scheduled opening date: October 2025
A further new arena is being built in South Korea, including state-of-the-art sound equipment, a seating capacity of around 19,000, and a maximum capacity of 28,000 for standing events. The arena will also feature a separate 7,000-capacity concert venue, as well as a cinema and commercial facilities. Seoul Arena is expected to attract some 1.8m visitors per year.
Kai Tak Sports Park
Scheduled opening date: 2024
Operated by ASM Global and predominantly hosting sporting events, Kai Tak Sports Park will feature a 50,000-capacity stadium and 10,000-capacity indoor arena, with 80% of the seats able to be retracted, in order to offer flexibility.
“Kai Tak Sports Park will transform the sports landscape in Hong Kong. ASM Global will bring world-class sports and entertainment events and deliver an outstanding experience to fans and clients alike,” says Darren Burden, executive director, ASM Global. “The renders of the venues provide a tantalising glimpse as to what that experience will look and feel like and we can’t wait to start delivering events.”
Scheduled opening date: 2023
Being built as part of a huge new shopping mall in the Thai capital, EM Live will be a 6,000-capacity arena focussed on entertainment and banquets. Programming will be by AEG Asia, which recently opened an office in Singapore as it expands its presence in the region.
A major change in Japan’s men’s basketball leagues will see a whole host of new venues opening over the coming years. New rules for B League top category (B1) teams mean they must attract an average audience of 4,000 per game and build a home venue of at least 5,000-capacity. This means nine likely new venues will be built in time for 2026, and with basketball games taking up only 30 days per year, this leaves live entertainment with a huge opportunity.
The Tokyo A-Arena is a 10,000-capacity space being built for the Alvark Tokyo team in the Odaiba area of the capital on the site of the Mega Web theme park. Architects are planning a highly accessible venue with facilities for disabled people at the heart of the design, plus a high-speed Wi-Fi and 5G signal. With a VIP lounge, an enormous centre screen, Sky Lounge with views over the sea, and more, the venue is expected to open in 2025.
Also due to open in 2025 is the Kobe Arena, a waterside venue expected to be capable of hosting 10,000 people. The aim of the arena’s exterior design is to depict “excitement” and “spreading its wings to the world,” according to the arena website. It will be the home of the Nishinomiya Stokes and plans to host concerts, sporting events, e-sports, and exhibitions. As well as the arena and a new hotel, the venue plans to develop an open space around the arena.
Elsewhere, Kagawa Prefectural Arena (cap. 10,000) is expected to open in spring 2025; the Yokohama Buntai, a 5,000-capacity venue, is scheduled to open in April 2024; and the Chiba Jets team is expected to open a new 10,000-capacity venue in Tokyo Bay, the LaLa Arena. Osaka Arena is set to be the largest arena in western Japan when it opens in autumn 2027 as part of a mixed-use development. It is expected to have a capacity of 18,000 and projects 1.8m visitors a year. According to local reports, it will be high-tech, with high-speed Internet, contactless payments, the latest sound systems, and more.
Aichi International Arena (expected to be 17,000-capacity) will open in Nagoya in summer 2025. It will replace the current Aichi Arena inside Nagoya Castle, which was completed in 1964 and is now ageing. It is expected to be the main indoor venue for the 2026 Asian Games and will be operated by the Aichi Smart Arena Group, a consortium led by Maeda Corporation, which has a vast experience in the concession scheme, and the mobile communication giant NTT Docomo. Others in the consortium include Anschutz Sports Holdings (AEG) and finance firms. The venue’s ‘hybrid oval’ bowl will enable both oval and horseshoe bowl configurations.
But before all that, a brand-new arena opens in Yokohama this September. The 20,333-capacity K-Arena will have flexible seating plans; easy set-up and take-down; and large-scale suspension. It will have some production equipment permanently installed. Forthcoming acts include Sam Smith, Saucy Dog, and Awich.
In May this year, the Saga Arena opened in the prefecture of the same name in Kyushu’s northwest. The multipurpose 8,400-capacity arena can host a variety of events, from large-scale events such as sports, concerts, and entertainment, to business events such as conferences and exhibitions. It can also be used as a 450-capacity “sub-arena” for medium-sized sports competitions and events.
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