Coca-Cola Arena may soon buzz with activity


Coca Cola Arena June 2020 Image: Coca-Cola Arena

Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai could soon be throbbing with life and be abuzz with activity once again. Dubai’s Iron Maiden show could be back on, according to Coca-Cola Arena’s Chief Executive Officer Guy Ngata.

The world-famous English Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden was due to perform at Coca-Cola Arena on May 27 but the gig was canceled due to COVID-19 outbreak.

Iron Maiden is an English Heavy Metal band formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris.

Coca-Cola Arena is a multipurpose indoor arena located in the City Walk neighborhood of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On top of public ticketed events, the arena can also be hired for private events such as conferences, award ceremonies, exhibitions, weddings, and gala dinners.

In what could be music to the ears for the region’s metal community, ‘The National’ reported that discussions are on to bring back the British group’s ‘Legacy of the Beast’ tour to the venue.

The ‘Legacy of the BeastWorld Tour is an ongoing concert tour by Iron Maiden, named after the comic and mobile game released by the band in 2017.

The same goes for the K-pop concert, Super Concert, which was set to feature Super Junior, NCT 127, RGP, LABOUM and Jun. This South Korean music spectacular remains officially postponed after the March 20 date was also canceled amid the pandemic.

Rescheduled shows by former One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson for October 1 and rapper Russ for November 27 are still on track, of course, only if the Government gives the nod.

‘The National’ further reported that on June 6, the sparkling City Walk venue celebrated its one-year anniversary with coronavirus casting its long shadow. The pandemic has seen the international live music industry shut down.

However, Ngata is optimistic and told ‘The National’ that steps are being taken to ensure people’s safe return to the majestic venue once the spread of the virus abates.

“We haven’t stopped planning and there are many conversations about shows and dates, and we are looking forward to announcing those when it is right to do so,” added Ngata, who hails from New Zealand.

“For the shows that were canceled, such as Iron Maiden and K-Pop Super Concert, we look forward to welcoming them back and those are ongoing conversations as to when new dates work for all parties and in line with public health guidance. Other shows, such as Louis Tomlinson and Russ, have been rescheduled for later in the year and we very much hope the world is at a stage where they can go ahead,” he further added.

Safety measures

When Coca-Cola Arena finally reopens its gates, fans will be greeted by revamped public safety precautions which have been chalked out in consultation with venue developer Meraas, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and the UAE Ministry of Health Prevention.

Coca-Cola Arena’s international venue management operator ASM Global has designed the VenueShield hygiene protocol which is the high point of the safety drive.

This means the arena is one among 325 venues worldwide that will go on to benefit from new and extensive hygiene and safety measures, ranging from physical and social distancing spaces, health monitoring systems, temperature checks, thermal cameras, hand sanitizers, reduced touch points and contactless transactions.

Ngata said that all major venues will have to work overtime to ensure a safe and healthy environment for an understandably worried public.

“There is a real desire across the industry to grow confidence in the market,” That way, fans and artistes can enjoy live entertainment safe in the knowledge all precautions and safety measures are being met,” the head honcho further noted.

Hit venue

The Coca-Cola Arena which went on stream on June 6, 2019, has become quite a popular venue both in UAE and abroad. Over 12 months, 20 ticketed shows were staged and 14 private and corporate events took place.

Not only has the venue consolidated the country’s position on the international music map in the eyes of artistes and promoters, but it was also the catalyst for establishing City Walk’s reputation as a major tourism and cultural destination in the Emirate.

Ngata, who previously ran the show in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena in China and Vector Arena in New Zealand, says he was “very pleased” with Coca-Cola Arena’s first slate of performances, from the first show by Canadian comic Russell Peters on June 6, 2019, to the Valentine’s Day concert by Colombian icon Maluma.

Ngata stated that opening the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai came with its share of challenges. Launching the first indoor multipurpose arena in the region required a double-pronged approach involving both industry and community outreach to explain the venue’s capabilities.

“Whereas previously, the region may not have been seen as a viable touring market, we feel very determined about changing those perceptions and seeing the entertainment opportunities for the region grow,” he maintained.

“Being the first venue of its kind in the region has also meant changing habits of attending live entertainment. Fixed seated tiers, in-house food and beverage concessions and hospitality suites have all been new additions to the region for large-scale shows, but those challenges have led to positive change and variation in the industry within the region,” Ngata further maintained.

‘Don’t drive’ strategy pays off

Coca-Cola Arena has witnessed powerhouse performances, including those by the likes of RnB singers John Legend and pop group Maroon 5. However, the swanky Arena’s biggest achievement is not related to the concert stage.

Most major UAE event venues are located outside of the cities’ centers (such as Abu Dhabi’s du Arena and Dubai’s 117 Live Arena), and many concert-goers have a habit of driving up to the arena which creates a lot of traffic snarls and leaves fans fuming. Coca-Cola Arena has managed to avoid such a situation through limited public parking and providing public transport options, from shuttle buses to well-organized taxi ranks.

The ‘don’t drive’ strategy of the arena was instrumental in rejuvenation of City Walk, which has benefited greatly from the regular arrival of thousands of music fans.

Explains Ngata, “Traffic flow to the arena was a key component in our preparation plans pre-opening and how we could make that journey to and from the arena as easy as possible.”

“City Walk is also a key component of how people travel to us. Having the huge array of leisure and food and beverage options pre- and post-show enables ticket-holders to add to their experience, meaning staggered arrivals into the area. The ‘don’t drive’ message continues to be at the forefront of our communications,” he further explained.

In love with the venue

Apart from the audience, the performing artistes are also in love with the arena, says Ngata. This has been nothing short of positive, with acts such as Peters and Maroon 5 singing paeans of praise for the venue’s design as well as the comfort which it provides.

In particular, American-Filipino comic Jo Koy’s January show was a standout, Ngata says, adding that “Koy really took to the venue”.

“Not often do you see the artistes mixing with the audience after the show but Jo came straight off stage and walked to the public concourses, foyer and plaza to spend time with fans, which added to the whole experience,” he reminisced.

Ngata hopes to bring back the electrifying atmosphere in the Arena as well as rekindle such memories soon.

Just like the fans, Ngata told ‘The National’ that he is also looking forward to the time when it will be safe to open Coca-Cola Arena’s doors once again.

“We have all missed the sound of live music, the roar of an audience sharing a laugh with a comedian and witnessing the drama of live sport. But, we won’t rush back without taking all the necessary steps in ensuring it is absolutely safe to do so … We will continue to work tirelessly to be fully ready to provide that as soon as possible,” Ngata asserted.

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