Access All Areas December 2021 - Page 19

WINTER 21 / 22 | FEATURE

Arenas for change

With the UK already able to boast some of the busiest and best arena venues in the world , Access explores the likely impact a raft of new major venue openings will have on the market , and how the leading operators are ensuring their venues not only remain state of the art but are meeting sustainability goals .
Render of the new 15,000 capacity arena at Cardiff Bay
Words : Christopher Barrett

Manchester ’ s 21,000-capacity AO Arena , the Utilita Arena Birmingham ( cap . 11,000 ), London ’ s The O2 ( 20,000 ) and The OVO Hydro ( 14,300 ) in Glasgow are among the UK arenas that year in , year out are among the busiest in the world when it comes to event tickets sold .

At the end of 2019 , the last full year of full-capacity events , The SSE Hydro generated more than $ 72m (£ 54.3m ) from ticket sales to become the second-best performing arena in the world , according to Pollstar data . The UK is already in a strong position when it comes to offering domestic and international touring artists a network of impressive arena facilities , but that network is due to be significantly strengthened in the next few years .
Among the new buildings in the pipeline are a 15,000-capacity arena in Cardiff Bay , the 17,000-capacity YTL Arena in Bristol , and the 23,500- capacity Co-op Live in Manchester which once opened will be the UK ’ s biggest arena .
While all those buildings are in the pipeline , the plan by America ’ s Madison Square Garden Company to build a 21,500-capacity MSG Sphere arena four miles from The O2 in London has not made a great deal of progress since it was first announced in 2019 . The Stratford-based Sphere is still awaiting planning permission from the London Legacy Development Corporation , but a decision is understood to be imminent .
AEG Europe chief operating officer John Langford – who oversees the company ’ s many arenas across the region including London ’ s The O2 arena , Barclaycard Arena ( 16,000 ) in Hamburg and Paris ’ s AccorHotels Arena ( 20,300 ), says he welcomes new arenas but draws the line at the MSG Sphere .
He says , “ We welcome the competition , the arrival of new venues helps raise the bar . My feeling is that all boats rise on the tide and particularly from an environmental perspective – if you look at the things that Co-op Live is doing or the Climate Pledge Arena [ 17,500 ] in Seattle , they ’ re able to use new technologies and focus on things that maybe older arenas haven ’ t been able to consider .
“ Competition makes us all look at things differently , whether it ’ s technology , whether it ’ s service , whether it ’ s content – the whole operation . It ’ s really good for consumers , and having a range of different venues of different sizes provides opportunities for artists and promoters and that can only be a good thing . We ’ ve always said that there is space in London for another venue although fundamentally we don ’ t believe that it could be two tube stops away from the O2 .” One of the areas where a
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