Crisis-hit Manchester Co-op Live Arena 'monitored closely' after embarrassing delays

Granada Reports correspondent Tim Scott reports on what is happening at the UK's newest and largest arena

There is growing criticism and questions over how the "embarrassing fiasco" of the failed opening of the Co-op Live arena has been handled.

The 23,500-capacity venue in Manchester postponed its opening show for a third time on Wednesday night with just minutes to go.

The crisis-hit venue, the UK's biggest indoor arena, is now being "monitored closely" as contractors continue work to complete it.

Venue bosses cancelled Wednesday's performance 10 minutes after the doors were set to open for what was meant to be its first official event Credit: ITV Granada

The £365 million Co-op Live arena aims to attract big-name acts away from London as well as awards shows and sporting events.

The Eagles, Janet Jackson and Eric Clapton are due to play the arena, but so far only a test event by Rick Astley has gone ahead.

It is understood a nozzle from the ventilation and air conditioning system fell to the ground from the ceiling shortly before last night’s event.

No one was injured but the venue management decided to pull the plug on the performance from Bronx rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie.

Thousands of fans, for the third time, were left disappointed after turning up for an event only for it to be cancelled.

Two hours after cancelling A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, the venue also confirmed they were cancelling the performances by American singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo on 3 and 4 May.

Olivia Rodrigo said she was 'bummed' about her Manchester shows being cancelled. Credit: PA Images

The main contractor for the arena, the construction firm BAM said: “The safety of fans and staff is our number one priority.

“Unfortunately, in the run-up to last night’s concert, an issue arose that meant the difficult decision was made to cancel the event.

“We apologise for the inconvenience that this has caused for many.

“Our team continues to work diligently on completing works to the arena.”

Manchester City Council said the authority’s building control is yet to sign the building off, though this is routine procedure until all “snagging” is completed and venues can operate without a completion certificate.

Earlier opening shows had attendances slashed and eventually events pulled after an issue with emergency services communications systems.

The arena, run by US-based Oak View Group, has confirmed shows by US musician Olivia Rodrigo as part of her world tour would not now go ahead on May 3 and 4.

Tim Leiweke, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Oak View Group, said: “The safety and security of all visiting and working on Co-op Live is our utmost priority, and we could not and will not run any event until it is absolutely safe to do so.

“I deeply apologise for the impact that this has had on ticket holders and fans.”

The venue, which put out a message at 6.40pm on Wednesday, had already postponed its opening twice last week. Credit: ITV News

Many fans were turned away just minutes before the doors were supposed to open for A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie on Wednesday evening.

"It just looks really bad," said Amanda Coleman, a crisis communication consultant.

"It looks bad for obviously the organisers, it looks bad for the the venue and it looks bad for Manchester and its a really difficulty situation because its not just the thousands of people who turn up and are affected.

"But its a knock-on effect on hospitality, on travel and there's a lot of expenses that people will have incurred, and this for me is the biggest issue, its gone from being a small problem a week ago to a top story because people are so upset and so affected by it."

Crisis communication consultant Amanda Coleman says it doesn't look good for the venue or Manchester

Many ticket holders have lost hundreds of pounds in lost hotel and transport bookings, with questions now being asked about compensation.

"If it turns out that the fault is with the people behind the arena, then you could potentially seek compensation for any additional expenses that you've incurred," said consumer rights expert Martyn James.

"If it could be argued that the company knew in advance about the problems and could have given you more of a warning."

The Co-operative Group, which has reportedly paid up to £100m in a 15-year deal to have its name on the ill-fated arena, said it will seek a “full explanation” from Oak View Group.

In a statement the firm said: “As the naming rights sponsor for Co-op Live, we are shocked at the incident which has led to late cancellation of tonight’s show at the arena.

“We are relieved that no-one has been injured, but we share the disappointment and frustration of ticket holders, many of whom are Co-op members, with the continuing delay to the opening of Co-op Live and the disruption that this is causing to everyone who has been looking forward to attending events.

“We will be seeking a full explanation from Oak View Group (OVG), who are responsible for the building, to the obvious questions arising from this, together with a clear plan from the Co-op Live venue management team at OVG for opening the venue and postponed and future events.”

Fans shared their disappointment at the gig's cancellation

Steve Millington, professor of place management at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “In the short term, it’s not good is it?

“It is embarrassing really and you do wonder what’s gone on in the planning or development. There seems to be a lot of problems.

“Ultimately in the long-run, in 10 years time, nobody will be talking about this, but you do wonder what the Co-op are getting out of this.

“People were asking questions whether Manchester needed a second indoor arena, three miles down the road from the one in the city centre.”

Co-op Live had already postponed its opening twice last week after rescheduling performances from Peter Kay and The Black Keys, and had reassured fans that A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Rodrigo’s shows would be going ahead this week.

The arena’s general manager, Gary Roden, announced his resignation last week.

OVG Run around 400 venues across the world, mainly in North America, but this is its first venture in the UK, the firm’s website promising, “synergistic opportunities in the live entertainment space globally”.

OVG claims the Co-op Live arena will be “world leading” boasting their venues “go beyond the limits of what we once thought possible to deliver the very best in live entertainment.”

Harry Styles has invested in the project, in the shadow of Manchester City FC’s Etihad stadium, the arena a joint venture with OVG and the club’s owner’s City Football Group

The venue will generate an estimated £1.5bn for the local economy, according to OVG.

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