OVG Eastlands Arena
A host of firms have voiced concerns over plans for a second Manchester arena

Firms wade in over ‘flawed’ £350m Eastlands arena

Dan Whelan

Manchester Arena operator ASM Global has submitted objections to the city council against Oak View Group’s plans to build a rival, 23,500-capacity arena, with local companies, including the Arndale and leisure firm Living Ventures Group, backing its claims.

Other companies that have objected to the scheme include asset managers Aviva Investors and DTZ Investors. The latter is the landlord for the Printworks in Manchester and a swathe of King Street, alongside Living Ventures, which owns bars and restaurants including Australasia and Grand Pacific.

The deadline to submit objections over Oak View’s plans for consideration by Manchester City Council, was yesterday. The developer plans to build a second entertainment arena in Manchester, in the Eastlands area of the city near the Etihad Stadium. 

OVG has said previously it hopes the arena would “support the growth of East Manchester as a thriving community and world-leading sporting and leisure destination”.

Meanwhile, ASM Global, which unveiled its own plans to redevelop the Manchester Arena in March and increase the facility’s capacity to 24,000, claims that the introduction of a second arena to Manchester would drive events and footfall to an out-of-town location, with a negative impact on the city centre economy. 

However, OVG’s chief operating officer, Mark Donnelly, who is leading the Populous-designed project, has consistently maintained that there is demand for a second arena in Manchester. 

“Our view is that Manchester is a growing market, whether that is development, hotels, international tourism or general population,” Donnelly said. 

OVG, whose arena would open in 2023 if it wins planning approval, believes Manchester can support two large arenas and said that £350m of private investment for the city post Covid-19 would be welcomed.

Printworks 1

DTZ Investors, which owns Printworks, is among the objectors

As part of its objections submission, ASM Global appointed consultancy Charles River Associates to conduct research into OVG’s market assessment. The Charles River study found “significant flaws in the evidence supporting the planning application” according to the arena operator. 

ASM Global added that OVG’s application “relied on evidence that failed to consider the full picture in Manchester”. 

Objectors have voiced their concerns over the project’s impact on city centre trade “at a challenging time for many businesses”, but Donnelly, citing the findings of OVG’s own economic and market assessment study carried out by consultancies Ekosgen and PWC, remained stoic.

He said: “From every study you can see, all the evidence points to the live entertainment market continuing to grow. There are various different data sources which suggest that live entertainment grows anywhere from 2% and 6% a year on average.” 

He added that Manchester Arena had lost market share in recent years due to growth in the UK arena market, and said several venues across the UK were looking to expand, which signalled confidence within the sector. 

Donnelly said: “Economic analysis submitted as part of our application shows that a new arena would bring an additional £36m per year in direct annual local spending and at least £1.3bn of additional economic activity from two arenas over 20 years. City centre business would account for 85% of visitor expenditure from two arenas.

“A new venue, with world-leading technology, would help to grow the overall entertainment market within Manchester and attract a wider range of larger and more impressive live events to the city.

Manchester Arena Redevelopment Bird's Eye View

Architect HOK has designed ASM’s arena revamp

A statement from ASM Global said: “We have clear reasons for opposing a new arena in Eastlands, and have never shied away from making our voice heard.

“We firmly believe that this planning application presents a very real threat to not only our venue and transformative redevelopment plans, but to our neighbouring hotels, bars, restaurants and stores, at what is an already fragile time. 

“Independent analysis clearly demonstrates there is no demand for a second major venue in Manchester. To introduce another would risk running the other out of business, taking with it the visitors and spend that it positively contributes to surrounding businesses.”  

Andrew Coles, director of real assets at Aviva Investors, supporting ASM’s argument, said: “The basis of the Eastlands Arena application was written before the full scale of the economic impact on Manchester was understood.  

“We would urge the relevant authorities to carefully consider how to ensure the vitality and viability of the city centre, which reflects the economic reality on the ground. As such, we believe a full retail and leisure impact assessment of a scheme of this size is needed.”  

Jeremy Roberts, co-founder of Living Ventures, added: “Support for the city centre has never been more important as we recover from Covid-19, and Manchester City Council needs to support the considerable investment that has already been made to the city centre brand and identity. 

“Now is not the time to destabilise our city centre economy.” 

A decision on the application is expected in July and, if approved, OVG says construction could start in October.

Your Comments

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We certainly don’t need another Arena it will just divert trade away from Manchester city centre, a very bad idea.

By Anonymous

I think it looks great and will be good to have an actually functioning large-scale music venue…! The amount of City fans in the city ahead of a match gives an indication that people still come to the city centre for their fun ahead of heading over to Eastlands!

By Anonymous

@By Anonymous, do you have data to back up your statement? Are you against a new area itself or just the location of the new arena? Would you be happier if the new arena was built in the city centre area (there is certainly sites where this could go, especially slightly outside the core) or are you saying that you have data which shows that Manchester couldn’t sustain a second large indoor arena?

If it is the first, in that the outside location is the problem, are you suggesting other event venues such as Old Trafford and Etihad should be relocated into the city centre, to bring people back in? What about suburban shopping?

This is an interesting topic in asking whether building infrastructure outside the city centre is a bad thing for the city centre. But does it really compete? If the Arena still exists in the city centre, people won’t ignore it for Eastlands. They go to specific events, not specific arenas.

By EOD

Don’t get this idea that it will drive business from the city centre, nobody says that about the Apollo, its not like it is being built in Wythenshawe or something.Surely people will still go the bars and restaurants before and after in the same way that they do with the Arena It just might be that they do at the Piccadilly end of town rather than the Victoria end. The Arena doesn’t have events on every night either so what difference will it make if the Eastland one has something on when the Arena doesn’t, or if they both have on the same night?

By Loganberry

Get this approved and built. ASM Global only got interested in investing in refurbishing the Manchester Arena once there was a threat from a 3rd party to build some competition, not because they care about Manchester or its citizens. They’ve left the Manchester Arena to rot away for decades with no investment. Old uncomfortable seats, smelly, no upgrades to any facilities, queues outside in the rain all the while their fees on tickets and prices of refreshments going up and up. I’ve literally got zero sympathy for them at all.

If I’m going to pay top dollar to attend an event, I’d much rather do it at a lovely new arena with the latest entertainment technology available, away from the City Centre with overpriced parking and one-way systems designed to make drivers’ lives a misery.

Yes this will be bad news for the City Centre and the ASM Global, but it’s their own fault for decades of no investment while milking us Mancs every weekend.

By HJ

If we’re to meet our carbon commitments we shouldn’t be building a new arena of that scale unless we’re absolutely sure its needed.

NZC by 2038 is about more than words.

By Really?

The irony and hypocrisy of the Arndale Centre’s owners complaining when almost everything about that rancid building and its inward looking layout works against the principles of good town planning, acting as a huge deterrent to investment in the retail core and making that part of the city centre a thoroughly unpleasant place to spend time. You wonder how many people are put off coming into Manchester City centre because of the presence of the Arndale centre and the damage it’s done to our economy over the years.

By Arndale hater

This one massively falls down on transport – out of town location that already struggles with the stadium alone (which still has permission for another 6k seats). Layering another 20k people on top of that with little scope to improve metro or highways is a major issue…

By HokeyCokey

It looks awful .

By .

Build it and they will come, people will venture to wherever they need to see the acts that they like. A second arena will offer an alternative and more choice – links to the city centre are good. The way the city centre is expanding it’s hardly far out. Bring it on, great boon for Manchester to have a second venue.

By DB

The Irony of the Arndale complaining about the new arena damaging the city centre which in itself has done more damage than ay other building in Manchester. That said I don’t think we need another arena especially when the football ground can be used for larger concerts out of season. Plus this side of Manchester is difficult to get back from when its busy.

By Jon P

Acknowledging the range of comments for and against..the existing Arena has been left in a bit of state hasn’t it..?
However, cant help thinking that the City Councils alleged close relationship with Abu Dhabi and the former Chief Exec’s role in Abu Dhabi and Manchester City make this look less savoury than it should do.

By anonymous

Why can Birmingham sustain 2 arenas, with 1 being expanded to over 20,000, but Manchester can’t? Manchester has a much larger catchment area than Birmingham, which includes Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Lancashire, and the Potteries.

When the Etihad is used for concerts, attracting the biggest artists and bands in the World, and millions of concert goers, all the city centre Hotels are always full. The Etihad and the new arena are 15 minutes away from the city centre.

ASM Global have let the Manchester Arena rot. They have spent nothing on it. They have a captive market. They don’t have any competition. They are raking the money in. They have only released these proposals to update the Manchester Arena, if they Actually do, because of the spectre of the East Manchester Arena.Otherwise, they wouldn’t have.

As for the Andale Centre. And it’s owners. All you need to do is look at the Andale tower. It’s fully let. Yet the exterior of the tower has never been cleaned, let alone reclad. It’s filthy. And it’s been like that for decades. It’s an absolute disgrace. Yet, the owners of the Arndale Centre are concerned about a new Arena in East Manchester. Please!

As for all the other city centre businesses complaining. The Printworks, etc. There are no Hotels next to the arena. There are no shops next to the arena. There will be Limited bars and fast food outlets inside the arena, but not Stand alone bars or restaurants.

All these businesses are only worried about is losing money. They’ve been raking money in for years via the Manchester arena. Maybe they should be more worried about COVID19 and the effect that is having on their businesses, rather than an arena which won’t be built for another 3 years!

By jrb

Get it built! Why should the Arena in the City centre have a monopoly?.Manchester is a leading city for entertainment and the population is expected to grow by 25% in the next couple of decades.It will be up to the owners and promoters of both venues to attract the World’s top talent.I’m sure they will both thrive in the coming years.

By Peter Chapman

No competition is bad competition. If your business folds due to competition, all it means is that your product was not good enough. And if an arena in East Manchester will drive investment and shows away from the city center, then the offering of the city center is really crap. Maybe this serves as a kick up the backside for Manchester arena and the surrounding area to get their act together

By Harry

Big companies complaining?. What? ‘it’s not fair’. Competition is good, we the audiences have more choice. The plans for the upgrade look amazing but likewise with the Eastlands job, that looks amazing too. They are in 2 very different locations, Eastlands is close to the motorway so will pull crowds from towns across the North and elsewhere. This city’s population is going to hit 3m soon so surely big enough for 2 bloody big venues. So I say just get on with developing both of them and then we can get back to screaming about transport. Indeed I am in the process of emailing Mr Burnham on that subject. I’ve got some ideas I’d like to put to him. If I get any kind of result I shall share some details with you all.

By Robert Fuller

initially this sounded like a bad idea, however on reflection its a very inspired one.Build it and they will come. And if that forces the shysters that own the MEN or whatever forgettable name they have for it now to do something they should have done years ago them so much the better.

By Nve

Looks amazing.
Definitely needed.
Agree with the majority of comments. There’s plenty of opportunity for a second arena, and it will only be good for the city.

By Anonymous

Great idea. It’ll help ease the gridlock around the M.E.N when there’s an event on.

By Neil

I’ve been in Eastlands over 20 years and can say with certainty that all of the visitors to the new arena will go straight to town afterwards as the area isn’t that nice to look at only place that will get a further boost is Asda Eastlands

By Patrick mcdonagh

Please stop calling the area Eastlands it doesn’t exist it’s Beswick

By Warren Derbyshire

I love the look but would need to see more detailed/realistic CGI to make a proper decision

By Anonymous

This is interesting @Warren Derbyshire, that you say Eastlands doesn’t exist. It certainly seems to as far as the council is concerned, who use the term Eastlands in official documents. If any organisation could be considered official in regards to the naming of local areas, I would imagine it would be the local area council.

That said, your point is interesting. So rather than there is no Eastlands (as obviously there is since councils, corporations, companies and people use the term) the question could be what is Eastlands and what area does it cover. Borders change all the time. Old suburb names often merge or change with new suburb names. Is this a suburb or is it something within a suburb? Is there even an understanding what a suburb actually is in the UK? Do suburbs in the UK have official borders, or are those borders we assume to be suburbs actually ward boundaries? What is a sub-suburb? Is this a precinct or quarter?

Is this even important?

If your answer is yes, I like the way you think :)

By EOD

Many posters have commented that ASM only showed interest in improving the arena once these plans came to light, which is a fair point.

However, for transport reasons alone the new arena should not be built. The chaos on matchdays show that metrolink and road infrastructure will not be able to cope. Just means there will be more days a week when Beswick grinds to a halt.

By Disgruntled Goat