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Design & Development

AO Arena’s £50m revamp completed, naming rights extended

Featured image credit: AO Arena

Featured image credit: AO Arena

Manchester’s AO Arena yesterday (Wednesday) hosted a topping out ceremony to mark the completion of its £50m (€58m/$64m) renovation project, as it was announced that online electricals retailer AO has renewed its sponsorship of the venue until 2030.

Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and local band Blossoms, which was the first act to play at the arena when it reopened following the COVID-19 pandemic.

AO Arena’s redevelopment has included a complete back-of-house update to enhance the artist experience, with a new green room fitted as well as upgraded dressing rooms and crew facilities.

The event-day guest experience will also be improved, with AO Arena claiming that new entrances and “state-of-the-art” technology will mean that getting in and out of the arena will be quicker than at any venue in Europe.

A new lower concourse bar area, with a capacity of 6,000, has been fitted to support the increased standing floor capacity within the arena bowl. New bars have also been fitted in the main concourse, while The Mezz, AO Arena’s new bar and restaurant space, will open in March.

Other improvements have been made to the arena’s acoustics and sound, while new heating and ventilation systems have been fitted. A new control room has also been installed to improve the venue’s security.

AO has sponsored the arena since September 2020, when it signed a five-year deal with venue operator ASM Global. A new five-year deal has now been struck, ensuring the venue will be known as AO Arena until at least 2030.

AO Arena, which opened in 1995 and is a previous winner of TheStadiumBusiness Awards’ ‘Venue of the Year’ award, welcomes over one million guests each year and hosts major music concerts, tennis, netball, boxing and more.

The arena redevelopment project was announced in April 2022. The project has been completed as the arena looks to compete with Co-op Live, a new 23,500-capacity arena opening in Manchester in April.

Co-op Live, which will be the UK’s largest entertainment arena, is being built at a cost of £365m, and is a joint venture between Oak View Group and City Football Group. It will form part of the Etihad Campus, which houses Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, and AO Arena bosses are confident the two venues can co-exist.

“I think we’re really well prepared, we’re a powerhouse,” Chris Bray, executive vice-president for Europe at ASM Global, said, according to the Manchester Evening News. “It’s the music capital of the world and there’s enough content to be delivered in two arenas here.

“I’ve been around the city here for two years since moving into this role and seen nothing but growth in this city in that time and it’s an amazing, vibrant place. Competition is good, it raises our game and it’s great for all of the fans who are coming through the doors as well, so we’re both really well placed for that.”