OVG shadow on ASM’s Manchester Arena plans


Manchester Arena update July 2020 Image: ASM Global & Manchester Arena

The operators of the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena in England, venue and event management company ASM Global, have unlocked more details as regards its road map for transformative redevelopment. The legendary venue is marking its 25th anniversary this year and is chalking out plans to celebrate the people, communities and businesses that have made it one of the world’s most successful venues.

Manchester Arena, managed and operated by ASM Global, is one of the busiest venues in the world and the largest indoor arena in Europe. Since opening in 1995, the Arena has hosted the biggest names in live entertainment including U2, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Pavarotti and the record-breaking 2010-2011 residency by local comedian Peter Kay.

Commented Tom Lynch, Director of Business Development, ASM Global, “Our plans will reimagine the whole customer experience at the venue, with a new exterior, a completely remodeled entrance sequence, additional concourse circulation space and some great new VIP experiences. We plan to embed sustainability into every aspect of the redevelopment, as part of our mission to become one of the lowest carbon venues in Europe. We’re currently consulting with our neighbors and the City Council, and we look forward to launching public consultation to welcome input from the rest of the City.”

“We will increase capacity of the venue to 24,000 by creating new entrances and exits, to bring more people to shows while ensuring safe and speedy entry and exit to events. Our plans are consistent with existing planning policy and support regional economic strategy, including many of the recommendations made within The Greater Manchester Music Review,” Lynch added.

He continued, “Most importantly, we will focus on our role at the center of the recovery of the city centre economy, alongside ongoing investment in our community. We’re working on plans for a state-of-the-art music therapy hub with one of our key charities, Nordoff Robbins, to enrich local lives through the power of music education in a new community center at our Arena. We’re honored to have been part of the fabric of this City for 25 years, and we urge our friends, fans and visitors to support our redevelopment and protect the future of one of the best connected, most successful arenas in the world.”

Recently, to commemorate Manchester Arena completing 25 years, a special virtual gig to raise funds for community causes was hosted by the facility’s social media channels. The gig was held in tandem with Future Agency and BBC Radio 1’s Abbie McCarthy. By making a donation, shared amongst The Booth Centre, The Christie, Forever Manchester and Nordoff Robbins, viewers were treated to exclusive performances from American singer-songwriters Lionel Richie, Alice Cooper, English indie singer-songwriter Badly Drawn Boy, English musician Tim Burgess, British singer-songwriter Emeli Sande, Everything Everything, singer Kelli-Leigh, Irish rock band Kodaline, English rock band Slow Readers Club and the English pop rock band The Hoosiers.

Weigh heavily

As more details of the plans to futureproof Manchester Arena emerge, plans for a second large-scale arena in Manchester is giving sleepless nights to the concerned authorities as it would have a negative effect on the existing venue and city centre trade, more so at a time when businesses are going through a limbo due to the global devastation caused by COVID-19.

Manchester Arena cites independent analysis from international economists Charles River Associates (CRA) that has found flaws in the evidence supporting the planning application submitted by the American global advisory, development and investment company for the sports and live entertainment industries Oak View Group (OVG). Whilst the planning application states that Manchester can sustain two 20k+ arenas, CRA’s analysis shows this is entirely at odds with historical data and that growth projections are completely unrealistic – “Current events coming to Manchester would not support two venues of this size. Dividing the current ‘pie’… would mean one or both venues would be unable to break even.”

The analysis by CRA also revealed that Manchester is already better served per capita than most of the UK’s other large cities, including Birmingham.

Independent research conducted by Grant Thornton and Oxford Economics in 2019 showed that two 20,000+ capacity arenas in Manchester are not sustainable, and would drive events and footfall to an out of town location, with a negative impact to the city centre economy.

Rob Turner, Director at Grant Thornton UK LLP, pointed out, “The Manchester Arena currently makes a significant contribution to the city centre, providing over 2,200 jobs and helping to stimulate the local economy. Our analysis shows that a new out-of-town arena would put this at risk and have a knock-on effect to the success of the city centre as visitors are pulled away and spending levels decrease.”

Two arenas in Manchester would also weigh heavily on the air quality as well as the transport network.

Rising chorus against OVG arena

A growing group of Manchester businesses have also spoken out against a second large-scale arena coming up in the city and the impact it would have on city centre trade. The group includes ASM Global, operators of Manchester Arena, Manchester Arndale, Aviva Investors, DTZ Investors, Living Ventures, the Manchester Hospitality Network, San Carlo Restaurant Group and Prestbury Investments.

Jeremy Roberts, Co-Founder of Living Ventures, owners of Australasia, Grand Pacific and founders of The Oast House and The Alchemist, remarked, “Now is not the time to destabilize our city centre’s hospitality trade, and I, along with many other local business owners, are deeply concerned by the proposal’s inclusion of significant food and beverage space. We were assured this proposal would encourage more visitors and trade. Instead, it is clear it will simply act as an out-of-town competing offering.”

Manchester Arena plays a key role in our city’s ecosystem, providing footfall for many local businesses. Right now, the city centre needs confidence and must protect its existing bars and restaurants. We ask that Manchester City Council consider the impact this development would have on the city centre, in line with its own planning policy. Please listen to the concerns of the local businesses who contribute to such a vibrant city,” Roberts added.

Marcello Distefano, San Carlo Restaurant Group, noted, “Manchester Arena is key to the footfall of the city centre and its vibrancy, which is a cause we’re all concerned about. We can’t let footfall continue to leave our high streets – they’re the soul of our city.”

DTZ Investors, on behalf of Printworks and King Street, maintained, “With many long-standing city centre businesses struggling, we must stand together and protect our existing offering. The relevant authorities must consider all evidence in the context of the National Planning Policy Framework – which seeks to protect city centres – and come to a proper decision on whether a scheme of this scale is justifiable. The picture so far suggests that the negative impact to city centre commerce, leisure and hospitality will be far-reaching.”

Andrew Coles, Director, Real Assets, Aviva Investors, added, “We believe it is in everyone’s interest to protect and support the recovery of the city centre. The basis of the Eastland Arena application was written before the full scale of the economic impact on Manchester was understood. We would urge the relevant authorities to carefully consider how to ensure the vitality and viability of the city centre, which reflects the economic reality on the ground. As such, we believe a full retail and leisure impact assessment of a scheme of this size is needed.”

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