The contractor signed a £253m deal to build Oak View Group’s events venue last week, its second major Eastlands scheme having completed Manchester City’s £115m training ground in 2015.
Bam has long been earmarked for the £350m project, as revealed by Place North West last year.
“This is the largest value project that Bam has done in the UK. We just picked up the [£192m contract] for Sky’s studios in Elstree, but this is a bit bigger,” said Ian Fleming, Bam’s North West regional director.
Bam has built arenas in Hull, Leeds and Abu Dhabi, but Fleming said OVG’s Manchester venue, designed by architect Populous, would be “the best” it had worked on, both in terms of how modern it will be and its sustainability credentials.
The firm is partway through a seven-month remediation project and expects to complete the 23,500-capacity arena before the end of 2023.
Fleming said that the arrival of a new arena in the city, which is to be sponsored by Co-op under a £100m naming rights deal, could see an increase in the number of hotels in Manchester and would “boost the economy generally”, acting as a catalyst for economic recovery.
“It is great for Manchester and great for local people. The economic benefit is massive,” he said.
Bam built Manchester City’s City Football Academy training facility and the nearby Asda supermarket and Fleming believes the success of its previous Eastlands projects helped the construction firm seal the Co-op Live contract.
“Knowing us helped. We have got a great record in this area,” he said.
Much of the Co-op Live arena structure will be pre-fabricated, thus reducing the need for a high labour force on site, which is expected to peak at around 400 workers, according to Fleming.
Around £150m of the construction orders for the project have already been placed with local firms, including to M&E firm SES Strategic Projects.
Robert Doherty, operations director for SES, said: “Our team mainly live and work in and around Manchester and this project has a real buzz about it. It has got everyone here excited and it is terrific for us to be involved.”
Plans for the Co-op Live project, which is backed by pop star Harry Styles, were approved by Manchester City Council last year despite protests from ASM Global, which operates the AO Arena in the city centre.
ASM Global asked the secretary of state to review Manchester City Council’s decision to approve the Co-op Live project on the grounds that it would have an “adverse impact” on the existing arena and the wider city centre, but the request was rebuffed.
“We were very confident that we had done a huge amount of work on the planning submission,” said Mark Donnelly, chief operating officer of OVG. “We proved the business case, the demand and the need for Manchester to have another arena.”
Donnelly said design changes to the arena were not required despite the onset of the pandemic, as the plans already incorporated technologies to make the arena “as touchless as possible”.
“The specification already has leading technology. We will have to wait and see what happens over the next couple of years but we think we are in as good a place as we can be in terms of the design and the technology we are building in,” he said.
While construction is underway, Donnelly said it was still too soon to be talking about specific events and that announcements about shows would likely commence around 18 months prior to opening.