The centre will replace the old Southport Theatre and Convention Centre. Credit: via Sefton Council

Manchester arena operator picked for £73m Southport venue 

ASM Global, which runs the 21,000-capacity AO Arena, is to sign a 25-year lease with Sefton Council to manage the Marine Lake Events Centre. 

The £73m Southport complex will provide a 1,200-capacity modern theatre space, a conference and exhibition centre able to accommodate a wide range of events, and café and signature restaurant. 

Plans also include a new water and light show installation on the Marine Lake, with the working title of ‘The Light Fantastic’. 

It is anticipated the development could attract more than half a million visitors to Southport every year, generating £18m annually. 

The council launched a procurement exercise for a venue operator in March and has now selected ASM Global as its preferred partner. 

“The combination of a high quality, flexible venue and the Light Fantastic is a unique offer, in a stunning location, which will create an outstanding leisure, events and cultural destination for both residents and visitors,” said Chris Bray, ASM’s European executive vice president.

ASM also operates the AO Arena in Manchester. Credit: via ASM Global

“There has already been excellent progress in securing funding, developing the initial designs and submitting the planning application, and we are excited to now join the project team and share our wealth of experience in designing, developing and relaunching venues.” 

As well as the AO Arena, ASM operates another 11 venues in the UK, nine on behalf of local authorities. 

The other venues the company operates include Olympia Exhibition Centre in London and the Utilita Arena Newcastle. 

ASM was also recently selected to operate the new 12,500-capacity venue at Gateshead Quays, due to open in 2024 and replace the aforementioned Utilita. 

At the Marine Lake Events Centre, ASM will sign a full repairing and insuring lease that features a fixed rental payment and a variable rent profit share for the venue, car park and hospitality, according to a report to Sefton’s cabinet. 

The next stage of the scheme is to appoint a contractor to build the venue. 

Sefton is to procure a construction firm from the Procure Partnerships North West framework by December. 

A £31m chunk of Southport’s Town Deal award will provide the lion’s share of the funding for the project, while the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority will provide an additional £20m. 

Plans for the £73m project were lodged in July. via Sefton Council

Sefton Council will fund the remaining £19.7m needed through borrowing and is seeking cabinet approval to do so next week. 

AFL Architects has designed the scheme, building on preliminary designs from HOK. A planning application for the project was submitted in July. 

“By awarding preferred bidder status to ASM Global we are once again showing our ambition, determination and passion towards delivering the incredible MLEC project,” said Cllr Marion Atkinson, Sefton Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and skills.
“We are doing everything to ensure the end goal is a fully flexible, scalable cultural space capable of staging concerts, stand-up comedy, family shows, musical theatre, conferences, and exhibitions that is the envy of other towns and cities.”

Your Comments

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Looks like a warehouse. Completely out of character with the architecture that stands immediately behind it.

By John

A Liverpool City Region post with a Manchester heading thanks again PNW .

By Anonymous

    Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comment. When crafting headlines we factor in a few things – accuracy being chief among them. But we also consider what will interest readers and what point of reference they may have for the story. ASM Global may not be familiar to many, but the AO Arena (or as it is more commonly known, the Manchester arena) is. Understand you may disagree with what we’ve chosen, but there was logic behind it. Always happy to discuss our headlines further, should you wish to chat. I’m at

    By Julia Hatmaker

John – Aren’t they Victorian houses behind? What are you expecting a 1,200-capacity modern theatre space, a conference and exhibition centre to look like?
This looks brilliant and Southport needs this.

By Love From Manc

Where are Sefton going to find the money ?
They paid £32million for Bootle Strand .
Always making cutbacks .

By Bernie

Also , this is Southport not Liverpool. So there’s that.

By Anonymous

It’s part of the Liverpool City Region especially when Southport is receiving funds from the LCC pot .

By Anonymous

Also irrelevant as we are a town in our own right with our own identity , we are not Liverpool and we are not controlled by LCC thankfully regardless of the numerous places Sefton council receives its funding from. This is good for the town which needs investment.Celebrate that and stick to the point of the article not apparent biases against the operator or the article itself because there is mention quite sensibly of another city that the company operates in.

By Anonymous

I think this looks great, just what Southport needs. We’ll done Sefton council.

By Tom

This is massive news and the plans look fantastic. Southport is on the up!

By snoutsinthetrough

The shot in the arm required for the local economy. Southport needs employment and a boost to the tourism offering. The recent foodhall shows that innovation and ‘change’ can work when done correctly. I cycle in to Southport most weekends, living nearby, and I get so worked up that it should be so much more.

It’s 45 minutes to Liverpool on the train from Southport, and just over 1 hour to Manchester. It’s a commuter town with sand and the sea and lovely architecture. Hopefully this will be a much needed catalyst for the local economy and welcomed by my favourite chippy, The Swan!

By Neil Higson

Glad to see things are moving in the right direction. My worry is the quality of some hotels available for these visitors. Whilst there are a few good hotels and many B&B’s, Britannia’s hold on the 3 largest and their lack of investment could see visitors feeling let down when it comes to their accommodation. £30 a night rooms gives you an idea of what to expect I suppose, but still a shame as these were once the places of choice in this town.


This level of investment is what Southport needs and long may it continue. The town has some beautiful architecture in the streets surrounding the promenade and Lord Street. It would be fantastic if these proposals included upgrading the surrounding public realm and adjacent streets linking Lord Street to the waterfront. Bold Street, etc have some fantastic independent hospitality venues that give the town its vibe and animate the streetscapes. Some investment into upgrading these streets would really start to change peoples perceptions when visiting the town. The train station concourse is also the single biggest let down and eye sore in the whole town….one of the worst arrival experiences into any town I’ve visited. Sorting this out would also be money well spent!

By Southportfan

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