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  • Sunday, 14 July 2024
Manchester’s Co-op Live Arena Finally Opens After Multiple Delays

Manchester’s Co-op Live Arena Finally Opens After Multiple Delays


Introduction and Opening Night

Manchester's troubled new Co-op Live arena has finally opened its doors to the public at the fourth attempt, following a series of highly-publicized problems and delays that forced it to call off its first events. Tuesday's gig by Elbow became the first official date in its schedule, following cancellations or relocations of shows by Peter Kay, Olivia Rodrigo, Take That, and other acts. The band received an enthusiastic reception from the audience, and the building’s opening seemed to have gone relatively smoothly. Most areas were open, although there were issues with long queues to get in and tills not working at some self-service food outlets.


Elbow's Grand Opening Performance

After their first song, Elbow's frontman Guy Garvey addressed the crowd: “Good evening Manchester! Let’s open this venue properly shall we?” Later, he added: “Everybody who has been working on this building has been so excited today. There was already electricity in the air before you got in, and now it’s thoroughly amped up. I hope you can feel it.”


Venue Specifications and Challenges

Co-op Live is the biggest indoor arena in the UK, with a maximum capacity of 23,500, and its construction costs have risen to almost £450m. The Manchester venue's opening comes three weeks later than planned and parts of the venue are still not finished. Dozens of construction workers were on the site on Tuesday morning, and its boss has said it could take another six months before it is fully completed.


Fans and Their Experience

Nigel Thomas, 58, from Chester, came to the gig with family, including his son Jake, who has traveled back from Hong Kong for the occasion. Elbow has been a special band for the family over the years, Mr. Thomas said. “We love the music but we've been living in different countries.” He said he had followed the Co-op Live saga “very closely” in the build-up to the gig. “We weren't sure whether it would go ahead or whether we would have wasted a flight price.” He noted some teething problems, such as getting entry to the car park. “I'd say that it's not seamless yet.”


Sam Veal, 51, has seen Elbow about 20 times and traveled from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire for this show. “I’m not as nervous as I was about the venue, but it’s an unknown quantity isn't it? Somebody's got to be the first person to open it. So we'll see how it all goes.”


Previous Setbacks and Safety Measures

The arena was originally scheduled to be opened by Bolton comedian Peter Kay on 23 April, but his shows were rescheduled twice because it wasn't ready. A gig by rock band The Black Keys was also postponed, and a new planned opening concert by US rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie was then called off at the last minute, as thousands of his fans waited outside. That was because a part of the ventilation system, which had not been correctly screwed to the auditorium ceiling, fell to the floor shortly before doors were due to open.


Statements from Management

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of Co-op Live operator Oak View Group, explained the situation: "If that was 15 minutes later, something catastrophic could have happened. They didn't put the bolts in. It wasn't visible to the eye, and it fell out." He sought to reassure fans that they had since "double checked and triple checked" the system. "We've looked at thousands of bolts up in that ceiling now." He claimed it was now "the safest building in the world", and said it was common for there to be an extensive list of items to be completed even after a building opens. "This building will evolve over a period of time. My guess is for the next six months, we'll have guys coming in here and working on that punch list." He expressed regret over the disruption to fans caused by scrapping shows, saying, "what I'm most upset about and I feel worst about."


Upcoming Events

Peter Kay is due to play his rescheduled shows next week, while Take That and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie moved their gigs to the rival AO Arena in Manchester. Mr. Leiweke said the venue was still "trying to lock down" new dates for Rodrigo. After Elbow, the next shows in the schedule are The Black Keys' rearranged concert followed by Eric Clapton and Barry Manilow.


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