Bosses behind delayed venue flood job with more staff in attempt to hit revised opening

Around 800 workers are still working on the delayed Co-op Live venue in Manchester two weeks after it was due to open, with the project running 24 hours a day as contractors race against time to get the embattled scheme ready this month.

The £365m project has missed a series of deadlines. Gigs by Peter Kay, the comedian who was originally due to open the venue last month, and US rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, who was then announced as the new opening act for the arena last Wednesday, have been cancelled.

A concert by rock band Keane, due to play this Sunday, and a series of shows by pop group Take That next week have also been pulled.

A spokesperson for Co-op Live said the numbers working on the scheme “are well into the hundreds – around 800 at this moment. I can confirm that [the] site is open 24 hours.”

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Source: Shutterstock

How the scheme looked earlier this month. It has been built in the shadow of Manchester City’s Etihad ground, which is being extended by Sisk

One industry insider told Building that flooding the job with workers was reminiscent of the problems which struck the Wembley stadium reopening nearly 20 years ago. That scheme made national headlines after busting a series of deadlines. 

“This has shades of Wembley about it,” he said. “It’s an awful shop window for the building industry when it’s on national TV daily.”

Co-op Live is now hoping to host local band Elbow on 14 May and veteran US singer Barry Manilow five days later.

Contractor Bam blamed Wednesday night’s problems on the HVAC system. In a statement to Building the firm added: “Wednesday’s issue was related to the HVAC system, which separated from the ductwork. An earlier routine issue with ductwork was identified during noise testing at the beginning of April.

“Work was immediately undertaken to rectify the issue and this has been completed for some time. We can confirm that issue is completely unrelated to the postponed opening of the arena.”

The venue was originally supposed to open at the end of last year but Building understands the scheme was behind schedule last spring, with Bam privately expecting completion in the early weeks of the new year.

>> See also: ‘A nightclub on a massive scale’: touring Populous’ £365m Co-op Live arena

Building revealed that Bam won the job in early 2020, signing the deal the following spring. At the time, the contract was hailed as Bam’s largest ever and given a £250m price tag

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Source: Shutterstock

Work taking place last summer. Building understands by then main contractor Bam was expecting the job to miss its end of 2023 deadline

It was originally being run by the firm’s North-west division but the North-east arm, which had built the Leeds Arena, then took over the job.

If the venue does open this month, not all the work will be completed according to planning documents lodged with the city council.

Hard landscaping – the block paving outside the venue – will not be ready for several months and is being replaced by “a temporary tarmac solution” in the mean time. It added: “The permanent landscaping solution will then be implemented by end of August 2024.”

Others working on the Populous-designed scheme for the client and venue owner US firm Oak View Group include MEP engineer ME Engineers, structural engineer Buro Happold, QS Turner & Townsend and planning consultant Deloitte.