Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Stockport’s very own flared-trousered indie-mongers Blossoms have unveiled the £50m redevelopment of the AO Arena.
They were among the VIPs at the venue’s ‘topping out’ ceremony tonight, plunging their hands into cement casts which will be incorporated ‘into the fabric’ of the new parts of the iconic live venue, which has played host to everyone from Take That to the Spice Girls and Beyonce to Coldplay since it opened as the Nynex Arena back in 1995.
Among the new additions to the 21,000 person capacity arena will be The Mezz, a new mezzanine bar and restaurant, which will open in March, in partnership with three Michelin star chef Simon Rogan and Tom Barnes.
Well-known music buff Burnham spoke about the many times he’d seen bands at the arena in the past, including memorable shows from Elbow, Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order, while he’ll be heading to see Depeche Mode next week.
“Oh my god, I’ve seen so many things here,” he said. “The night when it reopened in 2017, anyone who was here will remember that. It was poignant and special. It was the city at its best. It meant a lot.
“I’m trawling my mind for all the cool bands, I saw Elbow here which definitely sticks in my mind. I’ve seen Taylor Swift here, with my daughters. Katy Perry I saw here. Sport, comedy, Peter Kay. It’s a venue that’s wrapped up with everyone’s history, I think we all feel that and feel proud of it. So to see it go into this new era… it’s a special thing and I’m quite honoured to be here at the start of it.”
But is he a Swiftie? He told Manchester’s Finest: “I wouldn’t quite [say that]. I like the collaborations she does, with like The National and Bon Iver. That kind of thing.
“Am I fully bought into it? No. No, I’m not actually… Have I lost a lot of support here? My daughters are, if that helps.”
Blossoms said: “When the AO Arena opened again after Covid, we were the first band to play a gig here. We’re excited to celebrate the official topping out of the re-developments and look forward to seeing what the future AO Arena has to offer.”
Jen Mitchell, GM of AO Arena added: “We are delighted to have extended our partnership with AO, a partner who shares our sincere commitment to improving our local communities. Together, we look forward to continuing our work shaping the thriving creative and cultural scene in Manchester.”