OVG eyes London for new ‘great’ arena



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Oak View Group will build more arenas also in London Image: ILMC (LinkedIn)

Oak View Group (OVG) has identified London as a city it is targeting for development of “the greatest arena in the world.”

IQ Mag said Tim Leiweke told delegates at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) that the venue developer has its eyes on England’s capital city for a possible new arena.

Leiweke was taking part in the Hotseat interview, accompanied by his daughter who is the company’s COO, Francesca Bodie.

He said, “London has the O2 and Wembley – it needs another great arena. The west side of London needs a new arena and the city can handle two or three arenas.

“If you look at LA, they have the Intuit Dome, The Forum, Crypto, Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre and Honda Center down in Anaheim. So technically, you have six buildings in the marketplace. And by the way, we have the new Acrisure Arena down in Palm Springs. So, look at the competition in that marketplace.

“London needs an arena as good or better than OVG’s Co-op Live or Intuit Dome or the Sphere or Madison Square Garden. London’s the greatest market in the world for music, period, end of story. Why don’t we build the greatest arena in the world for London?”

Leiweke revealed that OVG, which owns and operates more than 300 venues worldwide, has also set its sights on Singapore.

The firm’s portfolio includes Climate Pledge Arena at Seattle Center, UBS Arena in Belmont Park, New York, and Moody Center in Austin, Texas and the Co-op Live development in Manchester, UK.

The 23,500-capacity Co-op Live is an indoor arena currently under construction in Manchester, England.

Due to open in April 2024, it is planned to have the largest maximum capacity of any indoor arena in the United Kingdom, greater than the existing 21,000-capacity AO Arena in Manchester, which is less than two miles away.

It will be the world’s second carbon-neutral arena after the firm’s Climate Pledge Arena, with UBS Arena slated to follow.

Discussing Co-op Live, Leiweke said: “It’s the largest single investment in the history of our industry internationally. It’s the most expensive arena ever built outside of North America.

Climate Pledge can’t be the only carbon-neutral arena in the world or else [the industry] has failed. We as an industry should lead this charge… sustainability should be the cause of our lifetime in our industry.

“We as a company are going to continue to build these arenas and make sustainability a priority and a way of life in our culture and then hopefully, it will inspire our industry to come along with us.”

Lieweke said that Co-op Live will be the firm’s “prototype” going forward when they’re building venues in Vienna, São Paulo and Singapore.

He added, “It’s my favourite building. I’ve had the great privilege of being a part of building 20 arenas and this is the best arena I’ve ever seen.

“The way we’ve designed our nine private clubs is economically what will drive our ability to privatise this building. We didn’t take one pound from anybody, not the city, not the UK authorities, we didn’t accept any subsidies of any kind. We’ve committed close to £50 million back to the community, to you, to music, to ultimately impacting our community through the Co-op foundation over the course of our lease. It’s going to revolutionise our businesses.”
 

Africa in the spotlight

The two executives also discussed the importance of the recently announced arena in Lagos, Nigeria, and the challenges of operating in an underdeveloped market.

Bodie said, “We’ve identified Africa, from a content perspective, as an important strategic investment because they have so many great artists but nowhere to play.

“The key was local partners, who made us aware of this healthy dose of scepticism because there’s been a lot of promises that haven’t been fulfilled.”

Leiweke added: “We could sit here for a half hour and tell you the obstacles that we had to go through. We’re fortunate that the chairman is so well respected there that he’s been trying to get our money into Nigeria, which is really hard. Trying to get our money out of Nigeria, nearly impossible. Dealing with inflation is unbelievable right now, as is the cost of goods. It is a risky move, by the way.

Live Nation jumped in with us as well because what we do understand is that it’s a huge opportunity to grow music and Africa and Nigeria.

“I predict 12 more arenas are going to get built by us or somebody else in Africa because we’ll show people that it works and when it does work, it can be a pride point of that entire community. Wait to see what it does for emerging artists that are coming out of Nigeria. It’s going to change and give them a platform and a voice.”

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