‘Not enough demand’ to support Eastlands arena

The operator of the Manchester Arena has spoken out against proposals for a 20,000-capacity venue as part of the regeneration of Eastlands, stating “it is just not possible” for the city to support two arenas, and “only one will survive”, potentially risking the future of the city centre.

A public consultation on the revised Eastlands regeneration framework, which includes an outline proposal for a new arena at the Etihad campus, is set to end next week.

A council report issued in March said “international investors and operators see Manchester as one of the few cities in Europe with the ability to successfully host more than one large arena”. The report said that these investors are evaluating locations and developing business cases ahead of revealing detailed proposals later this year.

John Sharkey, executive vice-president of SMG Europe, operator of the 21,000 capacity Manchester Arena in the city centre, has insisted that there is not enough demand to suggest Manchester could support both venues.

He told Place North West: “There is no market research to suggest there is the appetite for another arena – with the proposals there has been no market assessment, no environmental assessment, and no traffic impact assessment.

“We’ve explored the market across the UK and looked at locations where there are multiple venues of more than 15,000 capacity – London, Birmingham, and Manchester.

“All analysis shows Manchester is at the very bottom of the need for a new arena, it is in fact the most saturated market.

“Manchester Arena doesn’t turn away events, so I know there isn’t a big market gap. There are around 150 events being held currently each year, and to support both venues this would need to increase to 300 each year, and that is just not possible, no other city in the UK has that.”

Sharkey said that the arena had been working up plans for an overhaul, to be revealed next year as part of the venue’s 25th anniversary celebrations, but the Eastlands proposals then “came out of left field”.

“The arena is integral to linking developments such as Northern Gateway, Boddingtons, and Salford, with its position above the train station, and with a Metrolink station.”

“We were preparing plans to redo the whole precinct, to expand capacity, add more vibrant arrival experiences, and add to the events we can put on, because we want to be around for another 25 years.”

He insisted that his objection to the Eastlands plan was about more than just defending his venue, and could have significant long-term impacts on the future of the city centre.

“80% of gig attendees spend money in the city centre, and half said that if the venue was out of the city, they wouldn’t come in.

“Only one venue will survive, and if it’s not ours then the city will lose 1.2 million people coming through it, and could turn to tumbleweed.

“The plans are absolutely crazy, not at all strategic, and are purely opportunistic without any market context.

“A huge amount of pressure is going to be placed on the area. The roads would be gridlock, there’s not sufficient public transport, and the police resource which is already stretched in the city centre would now also need to be out of town. There’s also no guarantee there wouldn’t be both arena and football events on the same night.”

Sharkey argued that despite the council’s insistence to the contrary, “the Eastlands arena is already a done deal”, with an operator lined up and an architect employed to work up designs for a £300m building.

He said he was prepared to debate but “the council had gone to ground” on the issue, suggesting that the council was too close to development in the area, as both a landowner and joint venture partner of Manchester City FC owner Abu Dhabi United Group.

“The council is supposed to set the chess board, and let the players play. Right now they are moving the pieces too.”

In response to Sharkey’s claims, the council denied there was already an operator involved, or an architect leading on the designs.

A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “We have always envisaged a range of destination uses on the Etihad Campus.

“An Arena, alongside other development options, is being explored within the 2019 Framework because Eastlands has been identified as a potentially viable location.

“Should a decision be taken to pursue an arena, then this will be the subject of determination through the normal planning process following further consultation with residents and the fullest range of stakeholders.”

The city is also continuing to work with Manchester Metropolitan University and other partners to develop the Manchester Institute for Sport at the campus, as well as student accommodation and a high volume of homes. The council would continue its partnership with Abu Dhabi United Group to deliver the development.

The consultation into the revised Eastlands framework ends on Wednesday 26 June:


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Hopefully the new arena will be like Leeds

By Pl

Sadly, the current arena would die a death, terrible acoustics, the worst place to go and see a concert. Think they need to spend some money sorting that issue out before they complain about competition.

By Derek

The operators should perhaps try and invest in the existing arena a bit more…it is a right dump these days!


I believe Liverpool are looking into the possibilities of a new bigger area in the dock lands area.

By On the Dock

If Manchester CC support another major public events arena in Eastlands they’ve signed the death knell for MEN Arena and show they don’t give a stuff to supporting the city centre as they top level order in location for large events. And can kiss goodbye to multi-millions of spin-off spend in the city centre.
Eastlands is not the city centre, it’s an out of centre sport related destination, so support those uses!

By Why?

So some people in Manchester are making a grab for another supersized arena when Liverpool was artifically nobbled a decade ago with a stunted one so as not to compete with the existing Manchunian facility. Remind us Liverpudlians again where decades of rotten at the core northwesternism have got them again?

By Morgan

@Morgan I worked on a feasibility study for a Liverpool arena 10 years before the current one was built and the ‘received wisdom’ among leisure experts was that it would never work because ‘Liverpool was at the end of the line and a quarter of its catchment are fish’. How wrong they were proven to be. It may not be massive (11,000 ) but it’s hugely popular and usually full.

But anyway, as the recent mega concerts at Anfield have shown, Liverpool now has a summer-long venue licensed for almost 50,000 people for gigs – and the biggest bands in the world are happy to come to the city to play. All hotels in the city were rammed for both the Bon Jovi and Take That gigs and the venue, of course, offers outstanding hospitality facilities. All credit to the Americans who own LFC: they sure know what they are doing. I don’t think we need worry about losing out to Manchester on that score any more.

By Sceptical

Liverpool’s arena isn’t smaller for any political reason linked to Manchester. It’s smaller because of the existing successful arena already catering for much of its market and Liverpool’s 100km catchment for events including much of the Irish sea. Manchester’s, especially being right on top of a key Transpennine Express station includes a larger population with better domestic and international links. It’s the market.

By No Morgan

The new arena could be designed to accommodate some of the popular motor sports like stock cars and go karting , the Arena failed miserably with the recent monster truck show , it could also be designed to be flooded to allow water sports like some venues on the continent .

By barny

The new Arena is going to be amazing and will be able to host many things the NYNEX can’t. It’s walking distance of the city centre too, look how busy Ancoats was when Metallica played.

By York Street

@No Morgan, This the same market where Manchester Arena was allowed a direct say in what the size of Liverpool’s venue should be? Sounds more like the usual rigged regional shenanigans to me that seems to always have some oh so reasonable and rational excuse why Liverpool cannot be allowed parity with Manchester in absolutely anything (much less preeminence).

As has been proven by the recent gigs at Anfield, the city can easily support superstar acts. While its tourism brand, being geared towards music, means a large arena is the one thing more than just about anything that Liverpool could make a success of.

By Morgan

What say is this that Manchester Arena had? If the developers of the Liverpool Arena could fund a larger arena they would have done. Are you suggesting the owners of Manchester Arena curtailed the Liverpool scheme? Or the council? Or other conspiracy? The blame lies with Liverpool City Council and the developer.

By Morgan

Been to Manchester three times for gigs recently, muse, courteeners and Metallica, Manchester does gigs very well.

By Heywood

The row over a new arena begins. God give me strength. My Dad is bigger than your Dad. How long has Leeds been in the North West? Who cares which city has the best arena? I go to see the band, not the ego outside in the surrounding streets.

By Elephant

@no morgan, I think you are being slightly disingenuous towards Liverpools appeal. As stated before we are involved with the visitor economy in the LCR. Only this week we had visitors staying with us from Spain for the Bon Jovi concert and other nationalities(and from all over the British Isles) from over 50 different countries for other events of all sizes. In fact we are pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors from abroad who visit for the shopping at L1. There is a section of fans who travel to as many concerts as possible, so if the Arena in Liverpool was bigger it would attract more visitors. To say Liverpool’s catchment area is comprised mostly of the Irish sea you are correct and we have many welcome guests from the island of Ireland and IOM. One could argue that most of Manchesters eastern catchment area is comprised of empty moors and hills, but I am sure the sheep would be made very welcome there?

By Man on bicycle

Beyond those moors is Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford and the rest of Yorkshire. Many people come from these areas for concerts to use the Arena and Stadia, oh and the Airport. The sea is immediately West of Liverpool City CENTRE by the way, no comparable town to Rochdale, Middleton, Oldham & Stockport that’s before you even hit these moors. It’s not rocket science!

By @Man-on-a-bike

What have ADUG got to do with London? Some real bitter comments as per usual.

By Anon

@no morgan, Manchester Arena was directly consulted on what would be best for the ‘region’. Imagine the absolute outrage that would have (rightly) ensued from Manchunians had the roles been reversed. The MEN got going on the back of the Olympics bid, with lots of funding from central government to help it along. From that point on all alleged sensible talk of markets and catchment areas becomes defunt. A big bung was thrown at Manchester which allowed it to gain a head start. If this plan comes to pass Manchester will have twice the number of venues and four times the amount of seats over a city a thirty miles away, which is only a few hundred thousand less in population. I suppose only in the weird world of northwesternism/northernism can no level of unfairness be considered too much though.

By Morgan

Any government funded project must be assessed to ensure that the subsidy doesn’t distort the market. That’s a particularly important condition of the EU money that went into Liverpool’s arena alongside all the NWDA / government funding. But the key point is Liverpool’s ACC was built at all given it was wholly funded by government largesse. I suspect the size of the arena was therefore mainly dictated by the amount of government money available than anything else.

I don’t begrudge Liverpool getting favourable treatment by the government in terms of all the public money thats been funnelled into it over the years (way more than anywhere else) but if there is a cause for complaint then it’s the private operators in rival cities like Manchester Birmingham and Sheffield who would be justified in doing so.

By In the know

Liverpool has an international caché and a huge and growing visitor economy. I don’t think we need worry what other cities do. People love coming to Liverpool for the vibe it offers.

By Roscoe

Merseyside, to an extent along with South Yorkshire, used to be recognised as one of the most deprived areas in Europe and we used to get extra European funding for that. This ceased quite a while ago and George Osborne took funding away that we should have received from Europe.
Manchester’s Commonwealth Games funding paid for its sports infrastructure and its arena.
The Manchester area had huge funding for Trafford Park and Salford Quays also. Much of the comparable UDC funding that came to Liverpool went to our old docks. They are much more central to our city and much more historic than in the Manchester area. That is not our fault, but it is our good fortune.

By Roscoe

It’s a conspiracy!

By Floyd

More good news Manchester, with this, Mayfield and The Factory the place is gonna buzz even more. Need more hotels to cope

By Yes

It’s easier to sell tickets in Manchester than Liverpool, it’s easier to sell in Leeds than Liverpool, that’s just how it is.


@man-on a-bike, we also get plenty of fish visiting Liverpool from the sea so quite busy twice a day.
Is the new arena in Leeds having an effect on certain events in Manchester, when the good folk of Yorkshire have a facility of their own? It must effect some of them?

By Just fishing!

Could end up like Belle View though.

By Roscoe

If Liverpool doesn’t need to worry what other cities do, then do it.

Every article turns into a dreary scouse whinge.


@pj When Manchester stops systematically screwing over its near neighbour the ‘whinging’ will stop overnight. Simples 🙂

By North Shore

Ah yes, I’m sure ADUG are thinking about Liverpool whilst planning their new Arena in Manchester.

By @NorthShore

Roscoe the Manchester arena opened in 1995 the Commonwealth games took place in 2002.

By Anonymous

Maybe a new arena would support an ice hockey team unlike the last place.
MCR arena, I agree is terrible for concerts.

By Paul Schofield

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