OVG’s Manchester arena plans gain council approval

Manchester City Council has today (Thursday) given the green light for a new 23,500-seat arena developed by Oak View Group, which hopes to begin work on the project in November.

The arena would become the largest in the UK, with OVG pledging that the project will bring £350m (€382m/$445m) of private investment to Manchester. Pending final confirmation from national planning authorities, OVG plans to begin work on the arena, which would be located on the Etihad Campus adjacent to Etihad Stadium, by the end of the year.

The three-year construction phase would create 3,350 jobs, with a further 1,000 jobs to be created when the arena opens, which is projected to be in 2023. OVG said it will prioritise hiring local people and has committed to paying all employees at least the Manchester Living Wage.

The new arena would join the existing 21,000-seat Manchester Arena, which recently rebranded as AO Arena. In a statement released today, OVG noted that while Manchester has “historically been a world-leader for entertainment”, in recent years it has missed out on leading events and “is losing market share to other UK cities as they surged ahead with ambitious new arenas”.

OVG last month stepped up its plans to deliver the venue by releasing new research which it claimed reaffirmed the “latent demand” for a second major arena in Manchester.

“We’re delighted that Manchester City Council has given our proposals the go-ahead, and we can’t wait to get started, bringing a £350m private investment, creating thousands of jobs, and delivering one of the world’s best arenas to this amazing city,” Tim Leiweke, co-founder and chief executive of OVG, said today.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the community for taking the time to listen to what we had to say and providing feedback that ensured this arena is of Manchester, for Manchester and by Manchester.”

Councillor Pat Karney, city centre spokesperson, added: “Today’s decision is about confidence in our city, Greater Manchester and the North West. It is about new employment and training opportunities for thousands across East Manchester and beyond at a time when they are badly needed.

“The city centre, our communities and the wider city will be strengthened by our newest neighbour – Oak View Group Manchester. This is the next chapter in East Manchester’s regeneration.”

ASM Global, which operates AO Arena, has strongly opposed OVG’s plans and lodged a formal objection to the proposal back in June. Following today’s approval of the project, ASM Global said in a statement reported by the Manchester Evening News that it will “review all options” to ensure the future of AO Arena is secured “despite the pressures posed” by the approval of OVG’s plans.

ASM Global’s statement added: “We are, of course, wholly disappointed in today’s decision, which we feel completely negates the concerns of both ourselves and many key city centre stakeholders. These concerns are backed by compelling evidence that shows there is simply no market for a second major arena in Manchester.

“This decision will have a significantly adverse impact for our existing arena, and the wider city centre businesses and attractions it supports. Clear evidence has been presented on multiple occasions that demonstrates the application for an Eastlands Arena relies on flawed research, impossible market projections, is in defiance of national and local policy, and does not align with the adopted Core Strategy to support sustainable growth in the city.

“Why then has it been so readily approved? Fundamental questions remain as to whether this is truly the right choice for Manchester, particularly in the current climate.”

In March, an early-stage redevelopment vision was unveiled for AO Arena that would expand its overall capacity to 24,000 and make it the largest indoor arena in Europe. The plans were unveiled to mark 25 years since the arena opened and to ensure the venue “remains at the heart of the city for the next 25 years and beyond”.

Image: OVG