We took a trip over to East Manchester for an exclusive sneak peek at how the city’s massive new music and entertainment arena Co-op Live is coming along.
Invited as first guests for a sneaky look on a rainy Wednesday afternoon (5th July), we pulled up next to Etihad Stadium to notice another gigantic structure appear from behind it in the background, in the form of an enormous dark box — the new £365 million Co-op Live music arena, opening in April 2024.
We entered the half-building site situated by the home of Manchester City, passing rows of construction workers all dressed in hi-vis jackets, protective hats and boots — and noticing various Northern accents being spoken.
The area was busy and there was already an energy about the place. We walked through pathways marked out for us to enter the enormous concrete and steel shell of a structure, towering over our heads.
Crowds of media organisations gathered in the centre of what will be the main arena hall, and construction workers sat in the surrounding stands, the scale of the place was beginning to sink in.
Music began pumping as DJ Jenna G was providing all the tunes to get everyone excited for Co-op Live’s topping out ceremony — an age-old ceremony where the final beam or piece of a roof is placed on a building, marking a milestone.
Attendees were invited to sign the final acoustically treated roof cassette, lifted into place to top out the structure, with their signatures becoming part of the permanent structure.
Glancing around the space, eyes expressed excitement as people chatted and took footage on their smartphones. Then entered the speakers at the ceremony, and the music lowered as they stepped onto the stage.
They celebrated that construction alone has generated more than 3,350 jobs with a further 2,000 roles set to be filled ahead of the venue’s opening.
Gary Roden, the Executive Director and General Manager at Co-op Live, welcomed us all to the event and confirmed that an opening date has been set for April next year for what is set to be the ‘biggest and best’ arena in Europe and the UK.
He said Co-op Live is a ‘venue for Manchester to be truly proud of’ and that it will also make a ‘giant impact on the world of entertainment, globally’.
He spoke of the effort involved to help bring the vision to life, ‘from the people that came up with the idea in the first place, through to the people that have designed the wonderful building’ through to all over the construction workers that have built it ‘up from the ground, day-to-day’.
Mr Roden also said how industry experts have been ‘amazed’ by the venue and that they have told him ‘they’ve never seen anything quite like this’.
Tim Leiweke, the CEO of Oak View Group, said: “Co-op Live will put Manchester back where it deserves to be, as a global entertainment powerhouse.”
He spoke of how the arena will serve the people of Greater Manchester and the North West, using locally sourced food, workers and businesses, highlighting the positive impact it will have on local communities.
There has been some criticism about the new music arena wanting to make its venue more than just a place people go to see a concert and then leave afterwards.
This is because Co-op Live wants to provide all the before and after show experiences such as hotels, restaurants and bars, to keep people in the area rather than spilling out into the city centre and visiting those businesses.
In response to this, as well as dropping some vague hints about who Co-op Live’s opening act could be, Mr Leiweke said: “Ironically, the artist we’re trying to convince to come here first is an artist who isn’t touring. He’s one of the biggest artists in the world.
“The reason we’re trying to get him here first, to do a run, is because he’s going to fill up all the hotel rooms.”
He said he and his team started by thinking about how they could help draw more custom to the restaurants, hotels and retail around Manchester, rather than just the area around Etihad Campus.
“Co-op Live wanted to drive the economy for tourism and visitors for the city and for everybody in the city, so this isn’t just about Etihad Stadium Campus, this is about our thinking about how this building in particular draws 3 million people, and those 3 million people come from all over the world because Co-op live has a reputation of being the finest arena,” Mr Leiweke said.
The feature about the new venue that he’s most excited about is the sound quality, “This building will be acoustically perfect and that’s the part nobody sees yet,” he said.
When asked about transport links to help people to travel to and from the East of the city he added how they are committed to maintaining a green ethos and creating walking links, cycle links as well as encouraging use of the Metrolink and bus network.
“We’re going to build a sustainable building here, so we’ll be carbon neutral within two years. Cars are my enemy,” he added.
The event also included speeches from City Football Group CEO, Ferran Soriano; naming-rights partner Co-op Director of Marketing Communications, Amanda Jennings; and BAM Construct UK Executive Director, James Wimpenny.
To top the day off, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham dropped by to celebrate the milestone and the bright future in store for the city.
“This is one of the things that I like most about this place when I heard all about it; that it wouldn’t just have the biggest names, the biggest acts in the world on stage here,” he said.
“Space is being created in the concourses and corners of the place to put on new and emerging acts of the city region.”
Adding: “We’re all probably sometimes looking too much towards the past, we’ve got to look towards the future of this place; the future talent and love the fact that this arena will bring on the Manchester music of the future.
“As Greater Manchester we are so proud to have this venue at the heart of our city region. It will change this place for the better in so many ways in the years to come.”
Co-op Live will open its doors in April 2024. Artist announcements across the opening season are expected to follow shortly.