Plans for OVG Manchester, the U.K.’s largest arena, revealed

A Two Mega-Arena Town

Plans for OVG Manchester, the U.K.’s largest arena, revealed

A proposed new addition for Manchester, the so-called Land of Big British Arenas. (Courtesy OVG)

Los Angeles-headquartered sports and live entertainment company Oak View Group (OVG) has revealed plans for a 23,500-seat multi-purpose arena­ in the English city of Manchester that, when complete, will be the largest indoor arena in the United Kingdom. The current title-holder is also in Manchester, the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, which recently unveiled early-stage plans to increase its capacity to 24,000. Coming in at a close third is London’s O2 Arena, which can seat 20,000.

OVG recently submitted plans to the Manchester City Council for the mega-venue, which would be located in a highly accessible, public transit-friendly “regeneration priority area” in the Eastlands of Manchester. The proposed canal-side site is adjacent to the Arup-designed Etihad Stadium, home to one of the city’s two prestigious Premier League football clubs, Manchester City F.C. The company is confident that two very large arenas can peacefully and successfully coexist in the same city, one that has a longstanding reputation as the live music capital of Britain. (The owner of the Manchester Arena, however, has expressed concerns.)

For its first project outside of the United States, OVG, which describes itself as being “focused on being a positive disruption to business as usual in the sports and live entertainment industry,” has assembled quite the impressive team for the super-sized project. Dutch construction behemoth Royal BAM Group, which has executed a wide number of major projects in Manchester as well as global sports and entertainment venues including O2 World in Berlin and Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, has been tapped as project contractor. The arena and stadium specialists at  global design firm Populous (formerly part of HOK Group) will serve as principal architect for the new arena. In the U.K., Populous-designed venues  include the new Wembley Stadium (with Foster + Partners), the First Direct Arena in Leeds, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, London’s Olympic Stadium, and many others.

exterior of proposed manchester arena
OVG Manchester Arena will feature a canal-side gathering promenade that will be open to the public regardless if events are happening or not. (Courtesy OVG)

“This ground-breaking venue will set new benchmarks in sustainable arena design, as well as creating an experience and form that sits perfectly within Manchester’s architectural context and vibrant community,” said Declan Sharkey, senior principal and project architect at Populous, in a press statement. “We are delighted to be working with Oak View Group on its exciting vision for East Manchester.”

With an estimated price tag just under $440 million, the privately funded OVG Manchester Arena will be the most expensive ever built in Europe. It’s expected to generate 1,000 local jobs when in operation and 3,500 jobs during the construction phase.

Long, sleek, and somewhat resembling the world’s largest gaming console (or maybe a low stack of luminescent video cassettes), Populous noted that the LED-ringed venue’s “bold contemporary form complements the public realm and combines aesthetic beauty with a recognisable and identifiable profile that will be globally recognised as being inspired by contemporary Manchester.”

a rendering showing the inside of OVG Manchester Arena
The design of OVG Manchester Arena, set to be the largest indoor arena in the U.K., emphasizes sustainability, inclusivity, and security. (Courtesy OVG)

Describing the easily reconfigurable venue as a “transformer-like bowl” that will allow spectators to be closer to the stage than any other comparable arena in Europe, Populous placed special emphasis on, as mentioned by Sharkey, sustainability as well as inclusivity in its design. Per the firm, the venue was specifically designed to meet Manchester’s Zero Carbon 2038 commitments and will rank among the most environmentally sensitive arenas in the world when complete. In addition to its low-carbon profile, the venue aims to be a low-waste facility, sending zero operational waste—not a single plastic cup or pie wrapper—to landfill.

The stadium’s design will also go above and beyond in its inclusivity, paying special mind to not only the limitations presented by physical barriers but, according to a press statement, “barriers experienced by people who are neurodivergent, experience mental ill health, who are deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing and people who are blind or partially sighted.” To that end, the facility is aiming for Gold Standard certification from Attitude is Everything, a charity that aims to improve access to live music events for deaf and disabled individuals.

As the Guardian has detailed, security is also a top concern in light of the 2017 terrorist bombing during an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. In advance of the planning process, OVG has worked out a security strategy with the Greater Manchester Police, and notes that visitor safety will be “central to the design of the venue.”

Construction is expected to take three years, provided that OVG Manchester Arena clears the planning stages.

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