The official launch has been delayed by a week. Credit: via Blakeney Group

Manchester’s £350m venue off to rocky start

Co-op Live delayed its official opening this week by calling off two Peter Kay shows at the eleventh hour amid concerns the arena was not ready to welcome gig-goers.

Those performances have been rearranged and will take place next week, which implies any issues the £350m venue is grappling with can be easily fixed.

Chief among the teething problems, which came to light at a Rick Astley test event on Saturday, seems to be issues around powering the all-electric venue.

A report by the Manchester Evening News contains claims from people close to the project that the cabling for the arena is not even halfway finished, while one insider the paper spoke to said the scheme was “months” away from completion.

When Place North West asked Co-op Live to respond to these claims a spokesperson said: “We are focussing on ensuring a consistent total power supply to our fully electric sustainable venue, and testing thoroughly.”

Postponing the official opening of the much-hyped arena, coupled with the negative press that has followed, amounts to a less-than-ideal start for the venue, which is backed by City Football Group, owned by UAE deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour.

For this to have happened suggests a breakdown in communication between those building the Populous-designed arena and those who will operate it.

Clearly, the desire to fling the doors open did not align with the realities of the construction schedule. Place contacted main contractor BAM for comment but the company said all media enquiries should be directed to Co-op Live.

Despite this week’s blunders, Co-op Live is adamant that the planned Black Keys gig this Saturday will go ahead as planned.

The band will play to 10,000 people – less than half of the venue’s 23,500 capacity – and Co-op Live bosses will be hoping there is no repeat of the farcical events of this week as that test event looms.

There will be nervousness about a repeat of the Peter Kay fiasco but, on the plus side, the gig gives the arena the chance to quickly draw a line under the episode.

Manchester City Council said it “respects” Co-op Live’s decision to push the official launch back and will continue to work with the arena ahead of its opening gigs.

A city council spokesperson said: “Although no doubt disappointing for both the venue and those who were attending the first shows this week, it is the right decision if they feel the venue is not ready to welcome visitors and their systems aren’t fully tested.”

Manchester City Council’s building control team is yet to issue a certificate of completion for the venue. The arena does not need the certificate to operate as long as it can demonstrate a mitigation strategy.

The hype around the Co-op Live project has been building for months and, somewhere along the line, the pace of the PR machine overtook the contractors tasked with finishing what is one of the country’s largest construction projects.

For months, the venue has been announcing gigs from the Jonas Brothers to Eric Clapton. Unfortunately for those on site, when you start selling tickets, the completion date becomes immovable.

Venue bosses and those who have already bought tickets to those gigs will be hoping Co-op Live’s inauspicious beginning is just a bump in the road and not a sign of things to come.

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Begs a lot of questions of the construction management of this project and the delivery by BAM and the sub contractors, especially the electrical contractor.

By Anonymous

Embarrassing for the city


I’m by no means an expert when it comes to opening a brand new arena, I did think though that the lead time between last weekends test event and the Peter Kay show was very short. Certainly not a lot of time to rectify any major teething problems. Fingers crossed The Black Keys show is a success.

By Andee

I walked past about 3 weeks ago at about 7pm on the Sunday of the Bank Holiday weekend and there was at least a dozen workers still doing stuff outside. It was clear they were miles behind programme then. I suspect what is/has happened will probably come out in the wash in the property world in coming months/years.

By js1000

Yeah I bet Manchester is really embarrassed for a slight delay, despite attracting and building the largest indoor arena in Europe.
Years from now, everyone is going to walk past and say that when that was built, there was a slight delay which sent millions of Rick Astley and Peter Kay fans into a deep depression.

By Anonymous

Embarrassing for you DH maybe but personally I’m glad to have yet another great asset in the city…just one of many 😎.

By Cal

No surprise at all that its not finished. While im sure that in a year all of this will be forgotten it does show the downside to naming rights, CO-OPs name has been front and centre of this mess.

By Dave

Oversized, overpriced, rushed, and wait for the transport chaos when the full capacity is attempted. A few tramcars and buses are not going to be sufficient to disguise the fact that this is the wrong facility in the wrong place. The people I feel most sorry for are the local residents who have enough pressure to deal with on match days – now its going to be any night of any week as well!

By Not a Philistine

Well since everyone is talking about this disaster yes it is embarrassing


This will become an iconic venue for Manchester with a superb infrastructure around The Co-Op Live.
The teething problems will be resolved like on all major projects. Most run over and operationally their will be inevitable settling in matters to grapple in. This time next year all will be running like clockwork.
By 2025/26 there will be a new hotel on site and new leisure and entertainment facilities.
Manchester is the place to be.

By Manchester

Imagine thinking of this as disaster. Some cities are dying for this to be the worst news to happen to them this week.

By Anonymous

Lets see how the first year goes before judging the Co-op Live Arena as a negative or a positive.

Pretty sure OVG will make it a positive

By Anonymous

Just wait until they host a actual capacity event it will be far worse as realize public transport to this venue will never be able to cope and thousands of people are stuck in city overnight as they miss all last train and buses home.

By Terry Smith

I will be boycotting the arena and co-op after their treatment of the music venue trust

By Steve W

Delays will be frustrating and they’ve left too little time to thoroughly test it before the proper events but not sure how it’s embarrassing. I also don’t understand the complains about the local and traffic chaos. It’s next door to a 60,000 stadium and I don’t see too much written about travel chaos every time City play

By Dave

The Co-op started off helping the poor in Rochdale. Now it’s rather different! When I go to concerts I love the hassle-free booking system at the Bridgewater Hall where you can book in different ways such as speaking to a real live person. Also it doesn’t have to cost the earth. People’s emotional connection to artistes leaves them unable to spot when they are being ripped off. And I speak as someone who worked for the Co-op for over 40 years.

By Francis

I find it bizarre BAM haven’t been mentioned in any of the press

By Pebbles

The usual suspects..’I don’t like the colour’ or ‘I feel embarrassed ‘ …oh do bore off with same tired old wittering every time something is built that doesn’t agree with your inner narrative. Celebrate a great development in what was once a very run down part of the city and look at how this will add greatly to that transformation. Not everything is filmed in MiseryVision.

By Deary me

MiseryVision ! ..Lol ! It is that bloke in the comments again always with the misery. Big Projects like this always have issues at the’ll be off to a flyer soon enough though. What’s going to be interesting is how the AO arena responds. The hotels bars and restaurants around Manchester are going to love the competition. A virtuous circle.

By Anonymous

I remember when Manchester stuck its oar in to Liverpool’s arena plans, ensuring they were kept tiny in scale with the disingenuous argument the NW couldn’t handle two big venues. Now we have this. Proof positive that any future ‘friendly’ interventions by Manchester into Liverpool’s affairs should be told where to go by the city’s leaders.

By Andy

Having teething problems on an arena project like this are nothing new. Those with long memories will remember the Manchester arena (Nynex) had issues when it opened too.

By Manc Man

Andy, the difference in the situation with Liverpool’s arena was that the objections by the private owners of the MEN Arena (as it was known then) was on the basis that Liverpool’s arena was built using quite a lot of public money. The Co-Op Live is fully funded by the private sector. The existing arena in Manchester did nevertheless lobby hard for it not to go ahead.

By Anonymous

Two huge arenas in one city is going to make for some interesting competition indeed. I’m glad they exist but the Bridgewater hall is the right size for me although to be fair I am pretty old.

By Anonymous

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