There is market potential for an additional 2.5 million annual arena visits by 2035, strengthening the argument in favour of a second arena in the city, according to a report commissioned by developer Oak View Group.
US-based OVG wants to build a second arena in the Eastlands area of Manchester and says market demand is sufficient to support two commercially viable venues.
Meanwhile, the operator of the existing Manchester Arena, ASM Global, is pressing ahead with plans for a two-phase redevelopment of the entertainment venue, intended to more than double its standing capacity from 3,000 to 7,000 people, taking the total to 24,000.
OVG has said its rival 23,500-capacity arena, designed by Populous architects on a site at the Etihad campus would “support the growth of East Manchester as a thriving community and world-leading sporting and leisure destination”.
But ASM strongly disagrees with OVG’s arguments and 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.
The two firms are engaged in an increasingly competitive war of words as OVG prepares for its planning application submitted in April to go before Manchester City Council’s planning committee in September.
As part of a string of documents OVG is required to submit to the council as part of the planning process, the company has lodged a report, produced on its behalf by Amion Consulting and the Audience Agency, stating that there is more than enough latent demand in the Manchester market to support two arenas.
Analysis of the population make-up within a 90-minute catchment of the city centre show there is the potential for an additional 2.05 million annual arena visits by 2035, according to the report, which can be found on the council’s planning portal.
“This gives considerable headroom to OVG’s independent growth forecast of [its arena accounting for] an additional attendance of 1.27 million people by 2035,” it said.
Manchester city centre -including its retaurants, shops and hotels, will receive £95m out of the total projected audience spend of £165m by visitors to two arenas each year from opening in late 2023, the report added. This represents a doubling of current expenditure by audiences at Manchester Arena.
The report also claims that two arenas, offering more diverse programming and world-class visitor experiences, would help Manchester to re-capture fans currently choosing to travel to other cities.
The “limitations of the existing arena” mean Manchester is losing out on event hosting to places outside the catchment, such as London and Birmingham, because it does not have the facilities or programming that match competitors’ offer, it said.
It also noted that population within the catchment is projected to grow by 8% by 2035, which will provide additional market growth.
Mark Donnelly, OVG’s chief operating officer, said: “We’re fully confident that Manchester’s market is strong enough to support two arenas, and that’s why we’re committing to a £350m private investment.
“[Our previous] detailed economic analysis has been fully corroborated by this new independent public opinion research, which vindicates our confidence in the city. It also shows the wider benefits the arena will bring to the city centre in extra visitor spend.”
He added: “We believe the ‘Eastern Gateway’ [a development zone of East Manchester that includes Eastlands] can have a similar contribution to that made by Salford’s Media City in the west.”
OVG’s submission included a comment from Mike Blackburn, chair of inward investment agency Marketing Manchester, in which he stated: “A second arena will grow the overall economy and it will bring more visitors and more much-needed expenditure for city centre shops, restaurants, clubs and bars alike.
“And it will serve as a reminder to those aware of our cultural heritage, that Manchester remains a globally significant entertainment destination.”
Meanwhile, ASM Global launched a consultation last week on the first phase of its proposed revamp of the existing arena, designed by architecture firm HOK with Avison Young as planning consultant.