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AO Arena set for £50m revamp

ASM Global has unveiled a £50m (€60m/$63m) plan to transform Manchester’s AO Arena, with work set to begin this summer.

The revamp will focus on “state-of-the-art” infrastructure expansion and innovative guest features as the arena looks to compete with Co-op Live, a new 23,500-capacity arena that is set to open in Manchester next year.

AO Arena, which has a capacity of 21,000, is set to receive brand-new entrances, specially-tailored premium experiences, custom-designed lounges and new premium seating. It is expected that the transformation will take three years to complete.

The venue’s back-of-house will also be dramatically upgraded with a complete overhaul of the backstage experience for artists, production and crew. This will include new artist dressing rooms and production areas, a world-class green room with meet-and-greet facilities, an overhaul of crew catering, and first-class connectivity and technology.

The plans have been unveiled ahead of sell-out events at AO Arena from the likes of Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Diana Ross, Alicia Keys, Swedish House Mafia, Snoop Dogg and George Ezra.

Chris Bray, executive vice-president, Europe, at ASM Global, said: “AO Arena is one of the world’s iconic venues and a much-loved part of Manchester’s rich culture and history. It has been delivering world-class entertainment experiences for over two decades.

“As we approach our 30th anniversary, this ambitious endeavour will not only reinforce its position as a leading destination for live entertainment but will extend its market leadership for ‘live’ and fan experiences for the next 30 years, and we’re proud to be further investing into the heart of Manchester.

“The first phase will enhance and increase our standing floor capacity to share this historic arena with even more of our guests and we will also be adding new hospitality lounges and investing in delivering an upgraded concourse experience. Our performers will be immersed in an all-new back-of-house artists campus, unparalleled anywhere.”

Jen Mitchell, general manager at AO Arena, added: “This is a really exciting time for the AO Arena. Not only are we able to welcome guests back after a challenging two years, with a programme packed full of world-class acts and entertainment; now we can reveal the first phase of ASM Global’s plans for the arena’s redevelopment.

“This will not only elevate the experience for guests and fans, but for everyone who sets foot in the venue, including artists, production, crew and our staff who work so hard to make the magic happen right here in Manchester.”

AO Arena opened in 1995 and is a previous winner of TheStadiumBusiness Awards’ ‘Venue of the Year’ award. Back in March 2020, an early-stage redevelopment vision was unveiled for the arena to expand its overall capacity to 24,000, making it the largest indoor arena in Europe.

Bolton-based online electricals retailer AO acquired naming rights to the arena in September 2020 as part of a five-year deal. The arena had been without a naming-rights sponsor since 2015, when Phones 4u’s deal expired after the company ceased trading. The arena had previously been sponsored by the Manchester Evening News and NYNEX.

Co-op Live, which is being developed by Oak View Group, will be located close to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. The project was granted approval in September 2020 and ASM Global had strongly opposed the plans, lodging a formal objection to the proposal before it was given the green light.

Image: ASM Global