AO Arena, ASM Global, p Gala PR

ASM is planning more improvements to the arena in the future. Credit: via Gala PR

AO Arena looks to next 30 years after £50m investment

Bosses at the arena are confident the future is bright for the city centre stalwart despite the looming threat of a rival venue across the city. 

ASM Global, the company that operates the AO Arena, is close to completing a £50m upgrade of the guest and artist experience, aimed at futureproofing the venue for the next 30 years. 

The scheme is the largest investment in the venue since it opened in 1995 and includes The Mezz, a restaurant concept from acclaimed chefs Simon Rogan and Tom Barnes.  

The project, ASM hopes, will cement the venue’s status as Manchester’s premier destination for large events after a testing few years. 

In 2020, the AO Arena was trying to come to terms with the chaos wrought by the pandemic, which his the events business harder than most.

But that was not the only thing troubling ASM – plans for a modern arena in Eastlands that threatened to undermine the AO were being worked up.

ASM was an outspoken critic of Oak View Group’s project, claiming that Manchester could not support two large arenas. That the demand simply was not there. 

When the Eastlands arena – now known as Co-op Live – was approved, an ASM spokesperson said the project would have a “significantly adverse impact” on the AO and the wider city centre.

While that remains to be seen – Co-op Live does not open for another few months – ASM’s attitude towards its rival has softened in the last three years. 

Co-op Live is due to open soon. Credit: via Blakeney Group

Chris Bray, European president of ASM Global, told Place North West that the AO Arena is “really well-prepared” to thrive in spite of  Co-op Live. 

Bray, who joined ASM after the two-arena saga had died down, has a different view of how the new venue will impact the existing one. 

“There is more than enough content for two arenas here in the city,” he said. “Competition is good, it raises our game. 

“Manchester is a powerhouse. It is the music capital of the world. I moved here two years ago and I have seen nothing but growth.” 

Bray is not the only one who is confident about the AO Arena’s place in the market. 

White goods retailer AO, which became the naming rights sponsor for the arena in 2020, has extended the deal until 2030 after the venue’s best-ever year in terms of visitor numbers. 

With the opening of a shiny new destination in the east of the city just around the corner, ASM will be hoping the £50m invested in the AO ensures its appeal endures. 

The AO Arena now has competition but there are two things the elder statesman will always have going for it: legacy and location. 

“We are right in the centre of the city,” Bray said. 

“You can’t build history, that grows over time. It has been an amazing venue over 30 years and this investment is going to set it up for another 30 years.” 

Your Comments

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The Co-op Live is a better location

By Gilly

Someone’s changed their tune. Shame it took someone else’s investment for them to put their hand in their pocket. Oh well great for Manchester in the end. And that is why competition is good.

By Bob

Two major Arenas – proper city

By Anonymous

For those of us attending from Merseyside the ASM will always have the benefit of Victoria Station. We will not be able to get home after an Eastland’s Gig.

By Graham John Brandwood

They waited too long before this investment.

By Anonymous

Good that they are updating the arena, the competition forced their hand and god knows the AO needs updating. He’s right on the location though, hard to fault. Manchester is the real winner from this though .

By Bruce springclean

ASM still massively benefits from accessibility compared to COOP being right on top of Victoria. Non-city based visitors will find it much more difficult to get home after events over in Eastlands.

By Clag

Coop live will be successful and is a great addition but anyone with more than half a brain can see the city centre with its transport links is the better location.

By Sillyboi

His words, not ours

By Kingpin

It’s too late Coop Live and the Factory are ahead of them ……


The Co-op live is doomed as anyone who has ever been to Wembley Arena knows it’s complete insanity building a arena near a major football stadium because the transport system will be totally overwhelmed if you have football match and concert the same evening.No hotels nearby and no bars and restaurants nearby for pre or after gig either.

By Toby

Hello Gill in what way is the co-op live a better location ?

By Anonymous

Its a shame OVG didn’t consult Toby before investing 320 million in this project. Let’s hope thier evidence base is sound…….its not as as if there have ever been big crowds in this area!!!!

By Fred

My wife and I went to a number of concerts and ice hockey at the current arena until the terrorist attack, which stopped us going to arenas forever. Venues like Bridgewater Hall and the Apollo are much more user-friendly and pleasant for listening to live music. Bigger does not always mean better.

By Francis

£175 for a ticket to see the Eagles atEastlands. And those seats are at the back. I don’t think so.

By Anonymous

Great news and a long time coming.
The AO arena, Factory and Co-op arena will all thrive.
Book the acts and they will come.

By Peter Chapman

saying the Coop live is doomed before it’s barely opened is just being silly. Yes the AO is obviously in the better location, you’d need to be fairly myopic to argue otherwise but we should be grateful for two such huge venues in the City. Let battle commence .

By Anonymous

TJL – Factory and the OA Arena are not competing in the same market. Depending on configuration, the Arena has between three and four times the capacity of Factory.

By Local Interest

In terms of the Arena and a Stadium side by side issue – hopefully the stake that City Football Group has in the Arena enables a sensible coordination of events being held on the same day at the Etihad Campus. I said hopefully!

By Anonymous

I went to the AO arena recently, I can’t say I noticed much difference so not sure what they spent £50m on.

By Anonymous

The traffic is too much around the AO arena, anyone with a quarter of a brain can see that

By Gilly

This shouldn’t even have been allowed, insane decision

By Dan

It’s called public transport Gilly and you are in a city centre. At least pretend to visit now and again.

By Gillydan

Shouldn’t have been allowed Dan.? Why shouldn’t a £50m investment in an existing arena be allowed it’s called investment and you’d have to be very silly not to want that.

By Anonymous

Two huge areas in the city and still the occasional misery will find something to moan about. These are such an asset to the city regardless of the trolls.


From our experience at the AO we found the food choices to be very poor. Hopefully they can sort that out with part of this investment.
We would always choose to see bands and shows elsewhere due to this reason

By John

Trolls saying that people can’t get a train from Eastlands or that the increase in traffic is bad for the people who live in the area

By Stm

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