Manchester’s Co-op Live arena finally opens after weeks of cancellations and setbacks

Manchester’s beleaguered Co-op Live arena has finally officially opened its doors after weeks of setbacks, cancellations and postponements.

The venue was initially due to fully open with two Peter Kay stand-up shows on 23 and 24 April, but these dates were pushed back when problems emerged at a test event headlined by Ricky Astley.

The Co-op Live’s new opening night was then due to be 1 May when US act A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie should have performed – but this was cancelled at the last minute as fans queued outside.

Image: The view inside the Co-op Live, as seen by Sky News reporter Shingi Maraike

In the fortnight since, numerous other acts have been forced to postpone or move their Co-op Live gigs but the doors have finally opened to fans, with Manchester band Elbow taking to the stage this evening.

The show reportedly got under way a little late, with London band The WAEVE as the support act, the first to take to the stage as the massive arena began to fill with people.

Elbow took to the stage shortly after 9pm, with singer Guy Garvey shouting “let’s open this venue properly”, according to What’s On Editor for the Manchester Evening News Jenna Campbell, writing on X.

Concert goers arriving at the Co-op Live in Manchester for the Elbow concert. The troubled arena said it has completed an inspection and will open after a string of delays. Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Image: Co-op Live bosses said inspections have taken place ahead of tonight’s gig. Pic: PA
Concert goers arriving at the Co-op Live in Manchester for the Elbow concert. The troubled arena said it has completed an inspection and will open after a string of delays. Pic: PA
Image: More than two weeks after Co-op Live should have fully opened, concertgoers are finally inside. Pic: PA
Guy Garvey of the band Elbow performs at the Platinum Jubilee concert in 2022. Pic: AP
Image: Elbow’s Guy Garvey. File pic: AP

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s last-minute cancellation two weeks ago came after part of the venue’s ventilation and air conditioning system fell from the ceiling during a soundcheck.

More on Manchester

The venue’s boss said today that the accident could have been “catastrophic” if it had happened just 15 minutes later.

Read more: All the Co-op Live gigs cancelled or postponed

Signs Co-op Live is still a work in progress

Shingi Mararike

Shingi Mararike

North of England correspondent


The fact that the opening of Co-op Live has been beset by issues was not lost on Dermot and Diane as they stared up at the sleek black structure with a capacity of 23,500.

The couple, who had travelled from Lancaster, said they already had a Plan B to go to the Trafford Centre in Manchester for a meal if the concert failed to go ahead. As an Elbow fan, Diane saw the concert as an early treat for her 60th birthday.

Another group who travelled from Norwich for five hours also had their own backup plan if things didn’t go as they had intended.

Less than a month ago, the arena still looked like a building site, with workers in hard hats surrounding it.

This evening, there was not a crane in sight as the queue began to build. As scheduled, the gates opened at 6.30pm and hundreds of people slowly streamed in through the security gates, scanning their own tickets on the way into an atrium that had a huge LED screen taking up most of one wall, flashing with the names of the headliners.

Some people walking into the arena audibly gasped at its sheer size. From the self-scanning tills to the lights lining the escalators, the venue is as modern and sleek as advertised, but there were also signs that Co-op Live is still a work in progress.

Some security and hospitality staff seemed to be playing catch-up with the technology, while police officers in the venue were deep in conversation with both staff and Manchester City Council. Meanwhile, a woman hovered around the atrium with a notepad to check all the screens were working.

For this multi-million-pound venue and its financial backers, the first crowds through the doors and first notes finally being played must have come with a huge sigh of relief.

PABest A view of the Co-op Live arena in Manchester. The £365 million venue, the biggest indoor arena in the UK, has postponed its opening numerous times after rescheduling performances from Peter Kay, The Black Keys, and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, as well as shows by Olivia Rodrigo scheduled for this Friday and Saturday. Picture date: Thursday May 2, 2024.
Image: Pic: PA

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of the arena’s operator Oak View Group, told BBC News: “They didn’t put the bolts in. It wasn’t visible to the eye and it fell out.

“So we [have since] got that double checked and triple checked. We’ve looked at thousands of bolts up in that ceiling now. We’ve looked at the life safety lines. And we were going to take our time to make sure we did this right.

“There was no way we were opening the doors until we checked every screw and every bolt and every one of those 95 shafts.”

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Co-Op Live delays explained
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A number of Elbow fans at the venue admitted they were feeling “apprehensive” ahead of the gig.

“When you go anywhere you want to know about the structural integrity of the place you’re going to,” said Samantha, 51, who did not want to share her surname.

“I know all venues have to start somewhere but as long as they say everything is fine, that’s as reassuring as it can be.”

With a capacity of 23,500, Co-op Live is the UK’s latest indoor arena and it cost £365m to build.

Source : Sky News