Co-op Live builder’s links with club put it in frame for job

Bam has ruled itself of the race to build the £300m expansion to the Etihad stadium, clearing the path for frontrunner Sisk, which is already carrying out preliminary works at the site, to take on the job. 

Last month Building revealed the treble-winning football club was on the hunt for a new contractor after it failed to agree a price with Laing O’Rourke for the 8,000-seat expansion with Sisk, which was already lined up to carry out other work at the ground such as a new hotel, being installed as the favourite to take on the entire scheme.


Source: Daniel Gayne

Sisk has begun preparatory work at the Etihad Stadium in east Manchester

As the contractor for the City Football Academy, as well as the Co-op Live Arena, which is on the Etihad campus and for which the club is a financial backer, Bam would have been well-placed for the job. 

But speaking at the topping-out ceremony for Co-op Live, Bam’s executive director James Wimpenny ruled that out. 

“We are not looking at that,” he said. “We have just got enough on with what we are already doing. Ultimately, you can take on too much and I think that job is going to start before [Co-op Live] finishes.”

Martin Horne, Bam construction director for the North West region, added: “From our perspective, there was too much of an overlap, I think in the two projects.  

“If they had been back-to-back then maybe a different view would have been taken.”

The decision clears the way for Sisk, which has previously built a number of stadia in Ireland and which is already understood to be in talks with the club.

Meanwhile, the joint venture behind the Populous-designed Co-op Live claim it will be the UK’s largest and most sustainable live entertainment arena when it opens its doors next April. 

The topping out ceremony was a transatlantic affair, with stars-and-stripes bunting and a mustard hot dog lunch reflecting the involvement of joint venture partner Oak View Group, an LA-based investment company focused on sports and live entertainment. 

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Hundreds of attendees were shown around the arena bowl before hearing speeches from Bam’s Wimpenny, as well as Oak View Group chief Tim Leiweke, City Football Group boss Ferran Soriano, Co-op director of marketing Amanda Jennings and mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham. 

In his speech, Leiweke said the venue would “put Manchester where its deserves to be” in the global music stakes, noting how the city had in the past decade slipped from a top three global concert market to no longer being in the top 10.  

“That is not a reflection of the music or audiences of Manchester, which are stronger than ever. It is a reflection on investment in cultural infrastructure,” he said. 


Source: Daniel Gayne

James Wimpenny speaking at the Co-op Live launch

Wimpenny said 80% of its construction orders had been placed with businesses in the North-west, meaning £200m of the £460m arena’s funding went back to the region. 

“Alongside my team at Bam, we’ve brought onboard 386 local suppliers, 40% of which are based within five miles of this development,” he said.

The arena has been described by its backers as a “music-first” venue, meaning it has been designed from the ground up with acoustics in mind. 

Horne added: “It is quite unusual for a building like this to be designed primarily as a music venue – a lot of the other arenas in the UK are built either as sports venues or adaptations of existing buildings”. 

“From an audio visual, digital acoustic perspective has been extremely challenging to build a big building with big open spaces, big open, three-story atriums but ensure that they acoustically do what they need to do.”  

The construction team, which reached 800 site staff at its peak, has also been faced with the challenges of a constrained site which is surrounded by a canal, tram station and the Etihad stadium’s car park. 

“What would be really nice if we had 20 or 30 metres all the way around to access in and out of the building and build the cantilevers – we’ve not got that,” he said. “What we are essentially doing is building it inside out”. 

The opening next spring has been pushed back from the original plan to open it at the end of this year which Bam said stemmed from issues faced by the construction team on early stage groundworks.