Is it worth it? Inside the Co-op Live arena as it finally opens

Concert goers arriving at the Co-op Live in Manchester for the Elbow concert
Concert goers arriving at the Co-op Live in Manchester for the Elbow concert -Credit:PA

The Co-op Live Arena finally opened last night, after a whole saga involving delays, cancellations and incidents inside the venue.

After an embarrassing start, the arena welcomed guests for the first time on Tuesday, May 14, as Elbow took to the stage. The Manchester band were supposed to be playing the 15th event in the Co-op Live schedule but after other major names, including Peter Kay, Olivia Rodrigo and Take That were forced to pull out last minute, Elbow opened the arena.

Mr Tim Leiweke, the man behind Manchester's Co-op Live Arena and CEO of Oak View Group (OVG), discussed the financial implications surrounding the venue's delayed opening. He said: "Are we spending more than anyone anticipated originally? Yes, but it will be worth it. The original cost was £365m, and it's now over £400m."

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He added: "OVG and City Football Group, including our contractor and what they've had to put in in losses, we will spend close to £450mn privately. The contractor [BAM] lost a lot of money on this job. This job cost them more than anyone ever expected."

The colossal arena boasts a capacity of 23,500 - making it the UK's largest indoor venue. Despite predicting a final cost of £450 million due to series of delays - a marked rise from the initially projected £365 million - Mr Leiweke remains optimistic about the enterprise stating that while the extra costs have been "painful", they've taken it on the chin.

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An general view of the Co-op Live arena -Credit:Getty Images

Finally he added: "We've been building this arena for five years, this is the longest construction I've ever seen on any arena ever built, it's a complicated beast." Mr Leiweke has refrained from discussing the financial repercussions of the delays, reports the Manchester Evening News.

He said: "That's between us and BAM". He did express his respect for the construction firm: "BAM has been honourable, they're finishing the project, they didn't try to duck out here, they've taken it on the chin, their stock got hit, it's a public company, I have great admiration for BAM and the job they've done here, because look at how beautiful this place is."

He proudly mentioned the workforce behind the arena, he said: "10,000 people built this arena, and I'm proud of that group of people. BAM our contractor they got hit hard, they've lost a lot of money on this job, I feel bad for them, they're doing the best they can. Some things we could have expected, some things were unexpected, ie the manufacturer error on the filter, there was no way to predict that."

Leiweke also refuted claims that there had been early warnings about the building's readiness. He added: "That's not true. The fact is, two weeks ago we were ready, and then the air filter happened."

Following an incident where part of the air conditioning unit fell during a sound check before A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie's opening gig on May 1, Leiweke confirmed that extensive checks have been conducted on the roof. Despite the last-minute cancellation as fans queued outside, he assures future attendees that the venue is now the "most checked venue in history", emphasising that the mishap was due to a single defective valve.

In a stern statement, he said: "As it turns out we had 95 of those air vents in the sky. We went back after that one fell, and we checked every bolt of every one of those 95 and it took us a week. There was no way we were going to open the building until we'd got up there and looked at every one of them, and it delayed us."

He did not hold back when he added: "It's the most analysed, scrutinised, over-analyzed, and double engineered and checked bolts in the history of the construction industry and again it's painful, it's hard for us, it's expensive for us."

Co-op Live Manchester
Co-op Live Manchester

His insistence on safety was clear, he said: "I know people are upset at that, but I was not going to open the building until we went up and looked at every bolt, every nut at every one of those 95 and have a third party engineer tell us they were ok. It's just life safety and you just can't rush that."

While expressing his regret, he added: "So am I sorry about the extra two weeks? Yes, very, very apologetic. I know we altered lives and confused schedules but there was no way that we were going to open without looking at every nut and bolt on those air shafts."

Despite the delays, Mr Leiweke exudes positivity about tonight's opening and beyond. He said: "This building will have a greater economic impact than any project in Manchester, period."

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