Co-op Live arena in Manchester to finally open after three weeks of chaos and setbacks

Three weeks behind schedule, after multiple delays, false starts and cancelled shows, the embattled Co-op Live arena in Manchester is finally preparing to open tonight.

The brand new 23,500-capacity venue was originally supposed to launch with comedian Peter Kay on 23 April. His shows were postponed twice, as were concerts by rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and pop star Olivia Rodrigo.

A Boogie’s show was ditched after a section from an air ventilation system fell from the ceiling during soundcheck. A spokesperson for the venue said no injuries occurred, and confirmed that rigorous safety checks would be carried out.

Pop group Take That then jumped ship to play their planned concerts at the rival AO Arena, still keeping their dates at the Co-op Live for June.

Bosses at Co-op Live have now said they are “thrilled” to be opening the venue after the initial disappointment of delaying their introduction.

“We now look forward to welcoming fans to Elbow’s opening performance on 14 May 2024,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Rock band Elbow are performing at the Co-op Live arena tonight (14 May) (Getty Images)
Rock band Elbow are performing at the Co-op Live arena tonight (14 May) (Getty Images)

Plans for the UK’s biggest indoor arena were unveiled in 2020, with a projected cost of £350m meaning it would also be the most expensive one in Europe (the final cost is said to have topped £365m).

Built on wasteland next to the Etihad Stadium, it will host music, sports and other entertainment events; US-based venue operator Oak View Group (OVG) has expressed its hope that it might lure the organisers behind the Brit Awards away from London’s O2 Arena.

There are also plans to hold the MTV Europe Music Awards there in November.

Tim Leiweke, co-founder and chief executive of OVG, said at the time: “Our new venue would attract a wider range of the world’s most exciting events and create thousands of skilled jobs, genuine community opportunities, and significant economic benefits. It would place Manchester on the global entertainment map for decades to come.

“We appreciate the significance of our proposals for the entire city. We will present our full analysis of the Manchester opportunity along with our plans and are committed to engaging in dialogue and scrutiny throughout the planning process to ensure a second arena is a win-win for the city.”

A view of the Co-op Live arena in Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
A view of the Co-op Live arena in Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Several investors are involved in the Co-op Live arena, including British pop star Harry Styles, who provided input into the backstage area.

Co-op Live’s delayed opening follows the resignation of its former general manager, Gary Roden, who stepped down after making a controversial remark about grassroots music venues.

Roden was asked by the BBC about the Music Venue Trust’s proposed £1 levy for tickets for arena shows, which would be distributed through a fund to support venues, promoters and artists operating at grassroots level.

Roden dismissed this as “too simplistic”. While he acknowledged the financial pressures faced by smaller venues, he went on to claim that part of the problem was that some of them are “poorly run”.

He announced his resignation just three days after the interview was published, while a spokesperson for OVG International said his comments did not reflect the company’s values.

The UK Parliament’s culture select committee announced last week that a system for charging a levy on arena shows to support the grassroots community should be in place by September, signalling a major win after months of campaigning by the MVT.