Co-op Live has finally opened its doors after a series of setbacks. 

Manchester’s newest state-of-the art arena, a joint venture between Oak View Group (OVG) and City Football Group, was slated to open its doors on April 23. However, the venue canceled comedian Peter Kay’s gig due to unexpected challenges. From there, Co-op live faced additional problems including technical issues, power supply problems and HVAC system malfunctions, which forced the venue to cancel several acts including Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Olivia Rodrigo, and the band Keane. 

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Tim Leiweke, chairman and CEO of OVG, blamed Brexit and the pandemic for the delays, telling the Financial Times that the root cause of the delays was a shortage of construction workers. He said he was shocked by the lack of skilled workers, noting that “towards the end of it I wish we could have been doing double shifts and overtime but we just couldn’t find people that wanted to.” 

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“We were paying people two and three times and we couldn’t find people to work, it was crazy,” Leiweke said.

Amid labor challenges triggered by Brexit and the pandemic, the construction industry is facing a shortage estimated around a quarter of a million workers between 2022 and 2026.

On Tuesday night, Co-op Live officially opened its doors with an inaugural performance by local rock band Elbow, with an estimated 12,000 people in attendance. While the venue is now up-and-running, Leiweke is speaking-out at critics, urging people to recognize the venue’s significance and emphasizing its potential impact.

“I think people should stop kicking and start appreciating what we have here, and the impact it’s going to create for Manchester,” Leiweke told the Manchester Evening News. “People who want to kick it, kick it. But we’ve shut up, we’ve spent the past three weeks getting the building ready, and now we open up… and I think we will have long-term success.”

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The setbacks have not gone unnoticed by stakeholders, including the Co-operative Group, the arena’s naming rights holder. Concerns over the venue’s readiness and operational integrity have been raised, prompting a thorough reassessment of safety protocols and operational procedures. Despite these concerns, Leiweke remains confident in Co-op Live’s future.

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“We have 120 events in our first year, 120 events already booked,” Leiweke said. “We sold 70,000 tickets last week for Billie Eilish. I don’t hear anyone talking about that, it’s like ‘wait a minute, this building is a failure?’ We just sold 70,000 tickets for Billie Eilish, Travis Scott sold out in three minutes. Most of those shows wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Co-op Live.”

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Leiweke added that the venue will drive economy and “that’s what I’m focused on.”

“Are we frustrated, sorry and apologetic for the last three weeks? Yes, but this building is going to last 30-40 years and it’s the most expensive building ever built outside of the United States and we built it privately,” Leiweke added.

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