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Design & Development

Etihad Stadium expansion gets final sign-off, seats go in at Co-op Live

Images: Manchester City & Co-op Live

Manchester City has received the final green light for its Etihad Stadium expansion project, while the Co-op Live scheme has marked another key milestone in its development.

Manchester City Council initially gave planning permission for a venture the English Premier League football club states will create a “best-in-class” fan experience and year-round entertainment and leisure destination back in July, but the Local Democracy Reporting Service said a number of conditions still needed to be met before final approval was granted.

This has now been delivered, with a design and access statement stating: “The proposal aims to help the Etihad Stadium become one of the best stadia in the world.

“It is fundamentally the platform for driving wider change across the area and investment in its facilities will ensure that it can continue to perform this role to its maximum potential, keeping Manchester City Football Club operating in the best way for Manchester and in line with its peers in international football.”

City conducted a fan and community consultation in February and March this year, subsequently submitting a planning application to the Council in April. The club released the first CGI renderings of the plans, drawn up by Populous, after concept designs were unveiled in February.

Approved proposals include several connected all-weather facilities, fully integrated into the stadium, centred around an expanded North Stand with one larger, single upper tier above the existing lower tier, increasing capacity from the current 53,400 to 61,968.

Above the upper tier there will be a sky bar with views overlooking the pitch as well as a stadium roof walk experience. A covered City Square fan zone, with capacity for 3,000 people and a wide variety of food and drink outlets, a new club shop, museum, workspace and a 400-bed hotel will also be constructed as part of the club’s development.

City said in July that it is anticipated that main construction works on the £300m (€344.6m/$364.1m) project will commence on-site in November, which will mean the North Stand itself will be complete and open during the 2025-26 football season. The hotel, workspace and public realm works, including City Square, would subsequently complete by late 2026.

Following City’s consultation process, which took place between February 28 and March 26, the proposal was updated to include the sky bar and stadium roof walk experience. The North Stand is currently the only remaining Etihad Stadium stand with two tiers, following the addition of 6,000 extra seats and a third tier to the South Stand ahead of the 2015-16 season.

Seats going in at Co-op Live

Located adjacent to the Etihad Stadium, the first seats have now been installed at Co-op Live ahead of the arena’s opening in April 2024.

To mark this moment in Co-op Live’s build, naming rights partner Co-op has announced an initiative to further the project’s efforts to support young people, by awarding these members of the community with exclusive access to seats for gigs throughout the year.

As part of this initiative, Co-op will gift a pair of tickets for every show to its charity – the Co-op Foundation – which will then award them to young people deemed to be driving social change through community programmes throughout Manchester and the UK.

The announcement forms part of the ‘Gigs that Give Back’ programme. Additionally, and as part of the naming rights deal, Co-op Live will donate at least £1m a year to the Co-op Foundation to deliver on its new youth-led strategy to support future change makers.

Gary Roden, executive director and general manager of Co-op Live, said: “This embodies everything that this arena is about – fans, community and music. Going to gigs is such a special experience, and we are delighted to support Co-op with this initiative to make sure that as many young people as possible from the community get the opportunity to experience Co-op Live.

“Seeing the first seats installed is an incredibly exciting milestone in the venue’s construction, and signals that we are getting closer to being able to welcome fans and artists to our amazing arena. Co-op Live is for everyone, and our partnership with Co-op is going to help us make that a reality.”

Co-op Live, also a Populous project, is a joint venture between Oak View Group and City Football Group and will be the UK’s largest live entertainment arena when completed.

The 23,500-capacity venue welcomed the first guests to its main bowl in July as it held a ‘topping out’ ceremony attended by partners, venue stakeholders and premium guests, marking the final stage of roof construction.

In June, it was disclosed that the opening date had been pushed back to April 2024, having previously been expected to be ready by the end of this year. Co-op Live is being built at a cost of £365m and is scheduled to host over 120 shows annually.