Manchester Arena exec condemns council over rival venue plans

Manchester Arena’s operator has said the future of the venue will be in doubt should the city’s council approve a new 20,000-capacity arena near the Etihad Stadium.

The latest Eastlands Regeneration Framework blueprint, published in March and out for consultation, formally confirms plans for a new indoor arena, with investors said to be already drawing up a “detailed business case”.

However, John Sharkey, executive vice president of European operations at SMG, which runs the 21,000-capacity city centre venue has now told the Manchester Evening News that Manchester can’t sustain another arena of this size.

Sharkey said it would “only be a matter of time” before the competition of two 20,000-seat arenas in the city forces the Manchester Arena under.

The executive also claims that the council has unofficially agreed the plan behind closed doors in the belief that “they know best for Manchester.”

The council denies that a decision has been made, though Sharkey told MEN his understanding was that it is a “done deal.”

He said: “We fully understand the need for Eastlands and the development of Eastlands, but complementary to where the city is going and not conflictual.

“We think this is an opportunistic move for Eastlands at the expense of Manchester strategically.

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

Sharkey added that Manchester Arena hosts up to 150 events per year, which would need to double to 300 annual large-scale concerts if a second venue is confirmed.

He echoed SMG’s previous concerns earlier this year that it could have a “devastating” impact on city centre hospitality, retail and events.

Sharkey added: “Because of that connection to the city centre, people come here early, they’ll go and enjoy a night’s entertainment and they’ll disappear out into the city centre, spend money in bars and in hotels in a way that will not happen if you have an arena in Eastlands, not the city centre.

“So can we get out of the hubris here? Because the real people who are going to lose their jobs are working in retail or restaurants or hotels, they’re not the people setting up some big plan.”

Image: Matthew Hartly