Co-op Live arena finally opens doors after delays

May 15, 2024 9:33 am

[Source: BBC]

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-publicised problems and delays that forced it to call off its first events.

After shows by Peter Kay, Olivia Rodrigo, Take That and other acts were cancelled or moved, Tuesday’s gig by Elbow became the first official date in its schedule.

The band received an enthusiastic reception from the audience, and the building’s opening seemed to have gone relatively smoothly.

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Most areas were open, although there were issues with long queues to get in and tills not working at some self-service food outlets.

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 lot got in, and now it’s thoroughly amped up. I hope you can feel it.”

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.

Nigel Thomas, 58, from Chester, came to the gig with family, including his son Jake, who has travelled back from Hong Kong for the occasion.

Elbow have 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 said there were still 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 travelled 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.”

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.

“If that was 15 minutes later, something catastrophic could have happened,” Tim Leiweke, chief executive of Co-op Live operator Oak View Group, told BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson earlier.

Mr Leiweke said there had been “no way” they could have known one of 95 pre-manufactured filters wasn’t installed correctly.

“They didn’t put the bolts in. It wasn’t visible to the eye,” he said. “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 said the disruption to fans caused by scrapping shows was “what I’m most upset about and I feel worst about”.

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.