Home World How The Harry Styles-Backed Arena Bungled Its Opening

How The Harry Styles-Backed Arena Bungled Its Opening

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It was marketed as a utopia of British entertainment – a £365 million ($460 million) project that would be Europe‘s biggest indoor arena thanks to its 23,500 seats and standing spaces.

But what bosses had hoped to be an impressive display of the U.K.’s commitment to the arts turned out to be a somewhat embarrassing chain of events that saw concerts canceled, part of the ceiling coming apart, and its grand opening delayed.

On Tuesday, they finally did it: Manchester’s Co-op Live had its maiden gig, and around 12,000 people filed in to watch English rock band Elbow (who were originally meant to play the site’s 15th concert).

The venue’s largest shareholders include Harry Styles‘ label Erekine Records and City Football Group, a sports holding company that owns the likes of soccer club Manchester City and is 81 percent-owned by Abu Dhabi United Group, 18 percent by U.S. private equity giant and Endeavor majority shareholder Silver Lake, and 1 percent by Chinese firms China Media Capital and CITIC Capital.

“I’m incredibly proud to be a part of Co-op Live, one of the largest and most sustainable arenas in Europe,” Styles said in a video released by the venue ahead of its initial April opening date. “I think that the people of Manchester deserve one of the best arena’s in the world, and I can’t wait for you to see it.”

The venue boasts bars, food, tidy interiors, and the most important element of all – a grand technical set-up balanced with an intimate fan experience. The lineup for the Co-op Live already includes Janet Jackson, Travis Scott, Billie Eilish, and some re-scheduled Olivia Rodrigo concerts. So what went wrong?

Issues began on April 23 and April 24, when popular British comedian Peter Kay was set to open the Co-op Live with back-to-back stand-up gigs. But it wasn’t to be – after undertaking an “extensive protocol of testing critical procedures” to ensure the utmost safety for shows and fans, the arena said, “regretfully,” Peter Kay, as well as The Black Keys who were scheduled to perform just after, would have to wait.

Thankfully, the issue seemed to be soon resolved – hooray! – and concertgoers were welcomed back for Olivia Rodrigo, raring to go on the highly-anticipated European leg of her Guts World Tour. On April 26, it was unveiled that Rodrigo and American rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie were to perform on different nights in the first week of May.

But the day of the A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s performance, the Co-op Live had more bad news. “Due to a venue-related technical issue, tonight’s A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie show will no longer go ahead. We kindly ask fans to leave the area.” The same applied to Rodrigo fans later in the week – ticket information, including refunds, was offered up.

It transpired that part of the ventilation system in the ceiling had fallen onto the standing area moments before A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s crowd was to be let in. “We have decided to take a short pause to events at Co-op Live to fully ensure the safety and security of fans and artists visiting the venue,” an X post on May 2 read. “This time will allow for an independent inspection of all elements of the arena ceiling.” Tim Leiweke, CEO of Co-op Live’s operator Oak View Group pointed out it could have been “catastrophic” if the incident had occurred 15 minutes later.

Bosses used this time to acknowledge the wider outrage sparked by the constant delays. “We are aware our actions have frustrated and angered ticket holders,” a statement said. “We know you’ve incurred significant disruption, and are finding a way to make it right.” Fans remained unhappy. One X user replied: “There will be countless people who would’ve booked travel and hotels just for you to stitch them up because you couldn’t meet assured deadlines.”

Some started to get nervous: “@Elbow only 5 days away, is it definitely going ahead?” Thankfully, it did. The band – aptly from Bury, Greater Manchester – received a warm welcome on Tuesday, nearly a month behind the opening schedule, but to the delight of excited concertgoers who finally were able to see just where those millions of pounds went.

Elbow frontman Guy Garvey told the crowd: “There was already electricity in the air before you lot got in. Now it’s thoroughly amped up. I hope you can feel it.”

All other performances – including Kay’s and Rodrigo’s – are rescheduled and seem to be going ahead. A frenzied start for the Co-op Live will in time, organizers hope, be eclipsed by the top-tier talent on its stage and in its calendar.



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