The launch of Co-op Live, Manchester’s newest entertainment arena, has experienced unexpected challenges and controversy – culminating in the resignation of its general manager, Gary Roden.

Roden’s departure comes amidst a handful of setbacks, including a delayed opening and controversial remarks regarding grassroots music venues.

Roden, who also served as an executive director at Co-op Live, tendered his resignation on April 25, just days before the venue’s scheduled grand opening with comedian Peter Kay. The decision to postpone the opening was prompted by power issues, further exacerbated by a reduction in capacity for a test event following concerns raised by emergency services.

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“Gary Roden has decided to resign. We’d like to thank Gary for his help bringing the UK’s newest arena to live entertainment fans and wish him the best for the future,” Jessica Koravos, president of Oak View Group (OVG) International said in a statement. 

The announcement of Roden’s resignation was followed by the immediate appointment of Rebecca Kane Burton as interim general manager. Burton’s previous experience in venue management and live entertainment includes roles at The O2 and LW Theatres. 

The controversy surrounding Roden intensified following his remarks to the BBC regarding a proposed £1 levy on arena tickets to support grassroots music venues. Describing the solution as “too simplistic,” Roden suggested that some venues may be poorly managed, sparking backlash from music fans and industry figures.

In response to the criticism, Koravos emphasized the company’s commitment to supporting grassroots music. She clarified that neither Co-op Live nor OVG shared Roden’s sentiments and reaffirmed their dedication to initiatives such as the Artist of the Month campaign and the Beyond The Music festival.

Despite the challenges and controversies, Co-op Live remains poised to open its doors to the public, albeit with adjustments to its initial schedule and capacity. The Black Keys are set to inaugurate the venue with a rescheduled performance on May 15, while Peter Kay will take the stage May 23-24.

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