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Co-Op Live air vent accident was almost “catastrophic”, says boss – who blames lack of workers for opening problems 


The boss of Manchester’s Co-Op Live has described how the incident with the air vent could have been “catastrophic”, and blamed the opening problems on a lack of workers.

The venue – which has a capacity of 23,500 and is the biggest indoor arena in the UK – has been at the centre of controversy in recent months, and plagued by issues in the run-up to its opening.

Initially, the space was set to open three weeks ago with a performance from comedian Peter Kay, however this gig, along with a show by The Black Keys, was pushed back at the last minute due to the building not being ready.

The delays continued from there, as organisers announced on May 1 that A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie‘s show was cancelled following a “venue-related technical issue”. Shortly afterwards, they also axed Olivia Rodrigo’s gigs – which left her “so disappointed” – as well as shows by Keane and Take That, with the latter relocating their dates to the rival AO Arena.

Unsurprisingly, the slew of issues facing the arena led to music lovers coming forward to express their frustration at the postponements, and branded the venue as “Manchester’s own Fyre Festival”.

The issue at hand was revealed to be due to part of the ventilation system falling from the ceiling during Boogie’s soundcheck, and the bosses of the venue being forced to keep the venue closed until it was safe.

“If that was 15 minutes later, something catastrophic could have happened,” Tim Leiweke, chief executive of the arena’s operator Oak View Group, told BBC News.

A general view of the Co-op Live arena as Elbow performs the inaugural live show at Co-op Live on May 14, 2024 in Manchester, England.
A general view of the Co-op Live arena as Elbow performs the inaugural live show at Co-op Live on May 14, 2024 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage/Getty)

He also went on to explain that one of 95 pre-manufactured filters had fallen and landed in the standing area just before doors were set to open, and there had been “no way” to have known that it wasn’t installed correctly beforehand.

Speaking with Financial Times, he went on to blame a shortage of labour workers at the venue for the series of delays, adding that organisers of Co-Op Live “couldn’t find people to work” to get the site ready in time.

He echoed the sentiment to BBC too, explaining that the issue with the air vent was because those hired to install it “didn’t put the bolts in”. This, he continued, led to organisers having to “double and triple check” all of the thousands of bolts in the ceiling at the last minute to ensure the safety of concertgoers.

“We’ve looked at the life safety lines. And we were going to take our time to make sure we did this right,” Leiweke told the outlet. “There was no way we were opening the doors until we checked every screw and every bolt and every one of those 95 shafts.”

The 23,500-capacity arena has been reported as costing around £450million to complete, and finally had its opening last night (May 14) with Elbow “christening” the venue.

“Let’s open this venue properly shall we?” frontman Guy Garvey said at the beginning of the gig. “Everybody who’s been working on this building has been so excited today – so nervous and so excited.”

He also added: “There was already electricity in the air before you lot got in here, and now it’s thoroughly amped up. I hope you can feel it.”

Guy Garvey of Elbow performs the inaugural live show at Co-op Live on May 14, 2024 in Manchester, England.
Guy Garvey of Elbow performs the inaugural live show at Co-op Live on May 14, 2024 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage/Getty)

In the morning before the gig took place, it was reported that dozens of workmen in high-vis jackets and hard hats were still working in and around Co-Op Live.

Speaking with BBC, Leiweke confirmed that this is because, while the venue is safe for people to visit, some parts of the building will not be fully completed for around six more months.

“This building will evolve over a period of time. My guess is for the next six months, we’ll have guys coming in here and working on that punch list,” he explained. He also stated that the disruption and disappointment of fans is “what I’m most upset about and I feel worst about”.

At first, organisers insisted they were “not embarrassed” by the postponements, and instead focused on getting the venue up to scratch. However, just days later, news broke that Gary Roden, the boss of the new arena, had resigned amid the controversy, and it was reported that some staff “couldn’t stop crying” while living through the venue’s “chaotic” two weeks.

Ahead of his resignation, Roden had come under fire for his comments about grassroots music venues, in which he argued that some smaller venues in the UK are “poorly run” and dismissed calls for a £1 ticket levy on all gigs arena-sized and above.

A general view of the Co-op Live arena as Elbow performs the inaugural live show at Co-op Live on May 14, 2024 in Manchester, England.
A general view of the Co-op Live arena as Elbow performs the inaugural live show at Co-op Live on May 14, 2024 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage/Getty)

In response, Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust (MVT), told NME that he believed Roden’s comments were “disrespectful and disingenuous”, while also highlighting the irony of making such “ill-judged, unnecessary and misleading” remarks on the week that his venue was forced to postpone its launch.

Later, the MVT said the new Co-Op Live Arena is “a great idea” but has urged bosses to “work in a way that secures the future of live music”.

Other acts scheduled to perform at the Co-Op Live in Manchester include The Black Keys, Eric Clapton, Nicki Minaj, Eagles, Pet Shop Boys, Liam Gallagher and The Killers.





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