Oak View Group to submit plans for UK’s biggest arena

Oak View Group (OVG) has confirmed it is bringing forward a planning application for what will be the UK’s largest arena, maintaining that Manchester has the capacity for two major venues.

US global venue development, advisory and investment company OVG has been working in partnership with City Football Group (CFG), parent company of English Premier League football club Manchester City, on the proposed project. In August, OVG confirmed it was working with CFG on the potential development of a new arena on land close to the Etihad Stadium.

In today’s (Friday’s) announcement, OVG said the £350m (€408.5m/$450.7m) project would be entirely privately funded and constructed on the Etihad Campus. It would make Manchester home to the largest arena in the UK and one of the largest in Europe, with a capacity of up to 23,500.

OVG said it plans to submit a planning application in the coming weeks. Subject to successful planning approval, it is envisaged the venue would take three years to build, with the first events planned to be held in 2023.

OVG, which is currently working on another significant arena project in the US city of Seattle, said the new Manchester arena would increase event numbers and attendances in the city and attract new and more diverse events owing to its location, flexible design and ability to utilise the broader Etihad Campus ecosystem. It added that jobs, skills, education and community initiatives, and a sustainable transport strategy will ensure the entire city benefits from a second arena.

The arena will have an interior bowl that aims to brings artists and fans closer together than ever before. Design features for audiences and performers with additional needs have been built in from the start, with the project aspiring for Attitude is Everything Gold Status1.

Whilst focused and designed for music, the venue will be a versatile entertainment space for different types of events with the potential to attract a wide range of live events to the city, such as ATP tennis, NBA and NHL international basketball and ice hockey games and major awards events.

Alongside the development of cutting-edge audio and visual technology, OVG said it will work with several world-leading content partners to bring unrivalled experiences and the world’s biggest and most exciting events to Manchester.

Tim Leiweke, co-founder and chief executive of Oak View Group, said in a statement: “We came to Manchester knowing that we needed to develop our proposals in a way that would support the needs and priorities of the entire city and deliver a venue that would enable Manchester to thrive in an evolving entertainment market.

“Through extensive community and city centre consultations, we have understood the local priorities and vision that is transforming Eastlands, along with the ambitions that underpin Manchester’s development as a thriving place to live and visit.

“Our new venue would attract a wider range of the world’s most exciting events and create thousands of skilled jobs, genuine community opportunities, and significant economic benefits. It would place Manchester on the global entertainment map for decades to come.

“We appreciate the significance of our proposals for the entire city. We will present our full analysis of the Manchester opportunity along with our plans and are committed to engaging in dialogue and scrutiny throughout the planning process to ensure a second arena is a win-win for the city.”

In a statement issued to TheStadiumBusiness.com, City Football Group added: “City Football Group is committed to continuing the growth of Eastlands and the Etihad Campus as a thriving community and world-leading sporting and leisure destination. We believe OVG’s proposals are an important addition to the campus that would create significant new opportunities for the local community, and benefit the broader city.”

Earlier this week, it was reported that BAM had won the contract to construct the new arena. In October, OVG and CFG completed the first phase of public consultation on the project, which saw initial details behind the plan emerge, such as its proposed location and an early artists’ impression.

News of a possible second major arena for Manchester first emerged in December and the project has since been faced with multiple questions. Manchester City Council in July added the proposed new arena as a future possibility under its development masterplan for the area. In June, the Council hit back at a report on the proposed facility which claimed Manchester cannot sustain two large-scale arenas.

The independent study from accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton UK concluded that the second venue would have a “devastating impact” on businesses close to the existing Manchester Arena and could put 2,200 jobs at risk.

The Council said it saw a “range of possible destination uses” for the land at Etihad Campus. Earlier in June, John Sharkey, executive vice-president of European operations at SMG, which runs the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, said that the city can’t sustain another arena of this size.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Leiweke maintained that Manchester has room for two major arenas. “I think Manchester deserves a new arena and it is certainly not built to eliminate current arena but to compliment the demand in the area,” he said.

“Most of the big markets have two, three of four arenas. If you look at London when The O2 was built many people predicted the demise of Wembley Arena, but they’ve just had the best year they’ve ever had. There’s one new proposed arena in addition to that one and probably a second one coming. So that’s potentially four in London.

“Birmingham has two next door to each other that do well. Manchester is not only the second biggest market in the UK it’s a capital market for around 15 million people in the north. This is a cultural capital, this is where people go for music, for entertainment, for sports.

“We believe two arenas will do just fine. We’re the second one in, we’re private. People can have opinions on whether the market needs two but the reality is we’re the ones taking the risk and we so much believe Manchester deserves a world class arena, we’re willing to take £350m worth of risk on it.”