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Manchester Arena Wars: This Time They Mean Business

Manchester Arena, rethought?

U.S. stadium developer Oak View's hopes that it might escape a damaging fight over its plans for a new 23,500 capacity arena in east Manchester have been dashed.

As the pandemic lockdown began in March, Oak View’s newly-published detailed plans for the UK’s largest indoor music and entertainment venue at a site next to Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium received an unexpectedly muted reaction. Earlier skirmishes between Oak View and Secure Income REIT, the owner of the existing Manchester Arena, were not repeated as potentially objectors mulled their options.

Other city centre property owners and operators, who had strongly voiced support for the existing arena and concern about the Oak View proposals, largely kept their mouths shut hoping for compromise.

Now the truce, if it was a truce, seems to be over. Existing Manchester Arena operator ASM Global has mobilised. It has published independent research into the Oak View planning application by OVG that it said shows “serious anomalies” in its claims about market demand, transport requirements and environmental impact, and that one of the two venues would likely go bust.

In the meantime ASM Global has responded by launching counterproposals to increase its own capacity to 24,000 (a shade higher than the Oak View plan), along with a rethink on the existing arena’s entrance, concourse and VIP areas.

“Our plans are consistent with existing planning policy and support regional economic strategy,” ASM Global Director of Business Development Tom Lynch said. “Most importantly, we will focus on our role at the centre of the recovery of the city-centre economy, alongside ongoing investment in our community.” 

ASM has powerful backers in the property business who fear a new out-of-town arena would damage the city-centre economy. The list includes Manchester Arndale, Aviva InvestorsPrintworks owner DTZ Investors, Living Ventures and the Manchester Hospitality Network.

The latest claims, all of which are contested in the Oak View planning application, will be the subject of debate in front of Manchester City Council’s planning committee later this year.

Contact David Thame at david.thame at bisnow.com.