Co-op Live's 'little bumps' expected, project boss says

Co-op Live
The venue is the UK's largest with 23,500 seats [BBC]

Delaying the opening of the UK's largest indoor arena will "give us time to get everything right", the boss of the project has said.

Tim Leiweke spoke after comedian Peter Kay's show at the 23,500-seater Co-op Live in Manchester had to be postponed.

Mr Leiweke, boss of US developer of Oak View Group, said the delay was not embarrassing, but a "commitment to safety".

He said "little bumps" were to be expected.

Tim Leiweke of Oak View Group
Tim Leiweke said teething problems were to be expected [BBC]

Kay's performances have been rescheduled to 29 and 30 April because work on the arena's power supply, which is fully electric, has not finished.

Some ticket holders were turned away at short notice from a test event starring Rick Astley at the weekend.

Mr Leiweke said his firm had built 20 large arenas across the world, and there was "always a mad dash" before they open.

"When you’re building the world’s most expensive, biggest, most international arena, you’re going to have some bumps in the road," he told BBC North West.

Work on Co-op live
Work is ongoing to prepare the indoor arena's all-electric power supply [BBC]

Oak View Group, an international sports venue developer which manages 450 arenas around the world, partnered with City Football Group and investor Harry Styles to build the £400m arena.

Work on the arena, close to Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, began in 2020.

But progress has been hampered by difficulties finding enough workers post-Brexit, and because of work days lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Leiweke said.

'Extra week'

A test event involving 5,000 spectators prompted organsiers to speak to Peter Kay about delaying the opening by a week, Mr Leiweke said.

The Bolton comedian's response was "unbelievable", he added.

"We just told him we need the extra week.

"He’s been fantastic and very understanding and, like us, he cares about the experience of his fans."

Mr Leiweke said he "felt terrible" that some people had their test event tickets for Astley's gig cancelled hours before the show.

His firm "went through this exact same situation" with the test event for the 02 Arena in London, and "ultimately fixed what we had to fix", he said.

Co-op live test event
Some ticket holders were turned away from a Rick Astley test event [BBC]

Mr Leiweke also addressed complaints about hospitality prices inside the new arena.

"People will not be happy if we’re charging more than £2 for a pint of beer, I get it, but our pricing... when you look at other arenas, we’re comparable.

"Let us learn, let us get better, let us finish, and then as we get people in in the next few weeks, what we’re going to see is, I think, will be what we said we were going to be, the finest arena built outside of North America."

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