OVG Eastlands Arena
The proposed venue sits within the Eastlands regeneration zone 2.5 miles from Manchester Arena

Manchester can support two arenas, says developer

Dan Whelan

Oak View Group, the US-based company developing what would be the UK’s largest indoor arena, in Eastlands, said that demand exists for Manchester to support two 20,000-capacity venues.

Speaking at the final public consultation event before a planning application is submitted this month, Mark Donnelly, chief operating officer of Oak View Group, said: “We are confident the market can take two arenas. Manchester is thriving and we what to attract world-class events.

“There are shows out there and Manchester and Greater Manchester is a huge music market. Demand has dropped off, but we want to re-establish Manchester’s position in the local marketplace.”

The venue, which is being designed by Populous, with Bam Construction soon to be appointed as main contractor, would become the largest indoor arena in the UK with 23,500 seats, overtaking Manchester Arena and the proposed 21,500 MSG Sphere in London.

But the development has proved controversial among some commentators who claim there is not enough demand to support two large arenas in Manchester.

During the consultation, Donnelly said that nearby Manchester Arena, whose operator John Sharkey has objected to the idea of a new arena, would not be its direct competitor.

He said: “We see our direct competition as the O2 arena [in London] and that’s the market we want to challenge.”

He added that the fact that Wembley Arena registered a record 157 shows in 2018 despite competition from London’s O2, suggests that two large arenas can function within the same city.

However, the two London arenas have a combined capacity of 32,000, some 10,000 less than the aggregate of the two Manchester venues, and the capital has a significantly higher population.

OVG Arena Bowl

The project is Oak View’s first in the UK and sits within the wider Eastlands regeneration zone 2.5 miles miles from Manchester Arena. Donnelly said he did not believe that the relatively suburban location presented any disadvantage to the proposed new venue.

He said: “The city centre is growing eastward all the time. It takes as long to walk to Manchester Arena from Piccadilly [station] as it takes to walk [to the Eastlands site].”

The plans propose enhancing transport links between the city centre and the arena, which Donnelly said Oak View must get right if the arena is to be a success.

“We want to increase the capacity on the Metrolink and provide shuttle buses on the nights we have events. We will also invest in and upgrade walking routes.”

Oak View hopes that the arena will be completed and ready to stage its first concert in 2023.

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But can Manchester’s transport network support it?!

By Disgruntled Goat

I mean they would say that

By Anonymous

It is very likely Manchester can support two arenas this size. It is afterall in the third (equal with Rhein-Ruhr) in Germany as the most populated urban region in the EU – only after London and Paris. There are 12 million people surrounding Greater Manchester and arena events of this size also attract large numbers from further afield and abroad. Take into account we have the largest airport outside London as well.

But Disgrunted Goat makes a good point. Is our local transport network supportive of this? All there is, is a single car (sometimes maybe double) tram to this site. Although the football statium which has a much higher capacity seems to cope, it is about time to increase capacity to this area. Perhaps we should finally get an underground metro like the rest of the modern world?


What EOD said.

By Anonymous

Agree with the comments, we probably can but the public transport cannot.

I recently went to a gig at The Etihad, it took me 1.5h to get back into Central Manchester. The Metrolink does not change its schedule for concerts and there is no viable train station round here.

By Acelius

He would say that wouldn’t he – as the developer.

This will be a huge mistake for Manchester, and another nail in the coffin for the city centre economy, not just the Manchester arena, but all the bars and restaurants that it supports. This proposal will also lead to further traffic chaos (most people won’t get the tram – they will drive from further afield). Manchester should adopt a city centre first policy.

We will have more capacity than London, but only a fraction of the population – DOH!

By Dan

Manchesters transport system….It’s being built next to a football stadium that holds 60,000 people and plays at least 30 games a year.I ‘m sure the transport system can handle it.Get it built,if we don’t someone else will.

By Anonymous

Bad for Manchester city centre restaurants and bars.

By Dan

I wouldn’t say that public transport can cope on matchdays EOD. The tram service is woeful given the standard capacity available. Upping this significantly and adding Piccadilly shuttle buses would be a great improvement.


We do not have sufficient transport links to get workers into/out of the city on time and I can’t see how this would improve things not to mention the cities climate action plans, there isn’t enough trams and not enough on order for 2023 so any argument about that doesn’t work. The current arena is the best connected, sure it needs refurbishing but we do not have anywhere near the same catchment as London so you can’t compare Wembley/o2 to Manchester.

By CityCentre

I’d prefer it if they just redeveloped the existing arena.

Bit of a trek compared to the other, especially when Eastlands is still crap.

By Anonymous

The current Arena was built for floor-based sports such as Ice hockey and basket ball. The seats face into the central space and good acoustics was never a requirement. As a music venue the Arena is very poor and may have had its day.

By Dave McCall

But where would people prefer to spend time, Eastland’s or somewhere like the Liverpool Waterfront? We are part of the same megalopolis. Everton’s new stadium will be quite a draw, and the Waterfront arena next to the Albert Dock might also undergo expansion.

By Red Squirrel

The Manchester Arena has had a monopoly for a long time now and, now there’s some competition, maybe it will try to improve its offering.

All the biggest gigs – like Muse – have to play at the Etihad or Emirates Old Trafford. Surely, a bigger modern arena would be catering to that demand instead? May well be space for them both…

By Anon

“The city centre is growing eastward all the time. It takes as long to walk to Manchester Arena from Piccadilly [station] as it takes to walk [to the Eastlands site].”….I suppose Manchester Victoria Station doesn’t exist then ….

By Pineapple Chunx

Feels like a vote of confidence in Manchester, so why don’t we feel confident that we can handle it and grow into the opportunity. There’s internationally recognised business prepared to put £350MM without public subsidy into one of the most deprived parts of town, and we are struggling with that. This is the good side of markets, not the bad.

By Rich X

I mean I love Liverpool Waterfront but it’s still not part of Manchester

By @RedSquirrel

The city centre is not growing eastwards, some flats have been built that’s all

By Dan

Wouldn’t it be better to build this near to the Trafford centre?The facilities are better there and there are more hotels plus the new Therme complex is to be built there and the Metrolink is finished now, plus 100 miles of motorway,gets you anywhere with little effort, as in Yorkshire, Liverpool, North Wales the Midlands and the airport.There is nothing at Eastlands apart from the Ethiad an Asda and one chippy. It is a dump.

By Elephant

Understand the concerns regarding transport network but I’m in favour for the improved pedestrian route alone.

Hopefully, with an arena offering hundreds of events on top of the 30+ home games at the Etihad, they will increase the number of trams!

By Luke

I do support his development, however, it is important that other infrastructure (not just transport) such as hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants are built nearby, so that the City and Beswick specifically, can take full advantage of this new arena. It could really enhance East Manchester.

If City / The Abu Dhabi Group could enter an expansion team into the NBA / NHL, the City would really be able to support two arenas. Bit of pipe dream though.


Have no doubt it will be built and become a resounding success.

By Peter Chapman

The Manchester Arena was only built for a 25 year life and Victoria station desperately needs to expand. I’d like to see it pulled down and a project similar to the Shard/London Bridge station to replace it. There’s plenty of land to build a massive new venue across the road in Strangeways.

By Danny

If the government is serious about capacity through Manchester, demolishing the arena and adding another 4-5 through platforms at Victoria would make sense.

By Demolish The Arena

It might not be the most beautiful arena in the world but if we were to have to tear town the MEN because it emerged Manchester couldn’t support two arenas that would be an enormous waste and run counter to the commitments we’ve made on net-zero carbon. Careful unbiased thinking needed

By Oli

Having experience working at the Manchester arena for several years I believe a new up to date modern designed venue is welcome. The Manchester arena is an outdated dinosaur , It wasn’t designed for the essential security measure which now take place , the concourse is not big enough and toilets are woefully inadequate and in poor condition. Inside the bowl the concrete jungle is an eyesore and is a danger going down the blocks as there are no handrails making the venue not fit to host shows designed for an older audience ,there are also just 2 customer lifts..crazy when hosting up ton16000 people .
An brand new arena would put safety and comfort at the top of the agenda on the design front.

By Anonymous