Exterior of the arena, seen from the north
|Full name||AO Arena|
|Former names||NYNEX Arena (1995–1998)|
Manchester Evening News Arena (1998–2011)
Manchester Arena (2011–2013; 2015–2020)
Phones 4u Arena (2013–2015)
|Public transit||Manchester Victoria|
|Broke ground||March 1993|
|Opened||15 July 1995|
|Closed||22 May 2017[nb 1]|
|Reopened||9 September 2017|
|Construction cost||£52 million|
(£107 million in 2021 pounds)
|Architect||DLA Design, Austin-Smith:Lord and Ellerbe Becket|
|Structural engineer||Arup Group Limited|
|Manchester Giants (BBL) (1995–2001)|
Manchester Storm (BISL, BJL) (1995–2002)
Manchester Phoenix (EIHL) (2003–2004)
The Manchester Arena, known as the AO Arena for sponsorship reasons, is an indoor arena in Manchester, England, immediately north of the city centre and partly above Manchester Victoria station in air rights space.
The arena has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the United Kingdom, and second largest in Europe with a capacity of 21,000 and is one of the world's busiest indoor arenas, hosting music and sporting events such as boxing and swimming. The arena was a key part of Manchester's bids to host the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000 and was eventually used for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The arena was temporarily closed following a terror attack by a suicide bomber on 22 May 2017, in which a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured 500 more at the end of an Ariana Grande concert during her Dangerous Woman Tour. Shows that were scheduled to be at the arena were either moved to alternative venues, or cancelled completely. The arena was reopened on 9 September with a special benefit concert headlined by Manchester-born singer Noel Gallagher.
First proposed during the regeneration of Manchester city centre during the 1980s, the structure was designed by DLA Ellerbe Beckett, Ove Arup & Partners, and Austin-Smith:Lord. The arena is sited in air rights space over the Manchester Victoria railway station and was constructed without disrupting use of the station. The original plans included a glass tower which was not built. It originally hosted a seven-screen multiplex cinema, a multi-purpose arena and multi-storey parking. The former multiplex cinema, which opened in 1996, closed after just four years and is now a call centre. Following the bombing, the foyer underwent renovation.
A large truss measuring 105 metres (344 ft) spans the roof. Reinforced concrete is used to increase sound insulation. The upper parts of the building are clad in purple-grey with green glass. The arena was opened on 15 July 1995.
The arena was one of the first indoor venues in Europe to be built following layout of 360-degree seating, and is the only arena in the UK to have this feature (London's The O2, formerly the Millennium Dome, also has 360-degree seating, but only on its lower tier, whereas Manchester's arena features it on both tiers). Other European indoor venues built to the same concept include the Lanxess Arena (Cologne, Germany), Arena Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia), Spaladium Arena (Split, Croatia), Kombank Arena (Belgrade, Serbia), O2 Arena (Prague, Czech Republic), and the Barclaycard Arena (Hamburg, Germany).
The arena was constructed as part of the city's unsuccessful bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Construction cost £52 million of which £35.5m was provided by government grants and £2.5m from the European Regional Development Fund. Although built as an American style sports arena, it has been more successful hosting large music events.
The arena opened in July 1995, sponsored by NYNEX CableComms as NYNEX Arena. In July 1998, it was renamed the Manchester Evening News Arena, or just the MEN Arena, when it was sponsored by the Manchester Evening News newspaper. In December 2011, the paper ended its 13 year sponsorship, and the arena was renamed Manchester Arena in January 2012. In July 2013, the arena was renamed Phones 4u Arena after the mobile phone company Phones 4u, but this deal ended in January 2015 after Phones 4u went out of business, renaming the arena back to Manchester Arena. In September 2020, the arena was rebranded as the AO Arena as part of a five year sponsorship deal by the online electricals retailer AO.
On the opening night, 15,000 spectators watched Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean perform; the crowd was a record for an ice event. Attendance records were set in 1997 when 17,425 people watched Manchester Storm play Sheffield Steelers, a record for an ice hockey match in Europe at that time. When 14,151 people watched Manchester Giants play London Leopards, it set a British record for attendance at a basketball match.
The venue attracts over a million customers each year for concerts and family shows, making it one of the world's busiest indoor arenas, and was named "International Venue Of The Year" in 2002 in the 'Pollstar' awards, and was nominated in the same category in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The arena was named "Busiest Arena Venue In The World", based on ticket sales for concerts in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 ahead of other indoor arenas including the Madison Square Garden and Wembley Arena. The arena was the 'World's Busiest Arena' from 2001 until 2007 based on ticket sales for concerts, attracting five and a half million customers. It was voted 'Europe's Favourite Arena' at the TPi Awards in 2008 by the touring companies that bring the shows to the venue.
On the evening of 27 May 1999, a reception was held at the arena to celebrate Manchester United's European Cup triumph in Barcelona 24 hours earlier, following the victorious side's parade around Manchester at the end of the season in which they became the first (and to date only) English team to win the treble of the league title, FA Cup and European Cup in the same season.
In 2008, the arena was the world's third busiest arena behind London's The O2 Arena and New York's Madison Square Garden. In 2009, it was the world's second busiest arena behind London's The O2 and ahead of Antwerp's Sportpaleis and Madison Square Garden. Although second to London's The O2, Manchester's arena had its busiest year with over 1,500,000 people attending concerts and family shows. The arena hosts over 250 events annually including comedy, live music and tours, sporting events, and occasionally musicals.
As one of the largest venues in the UK, the arena has hosted music concerts since opening in 1995.
As of 2019, British pop group Take That, who were formed in Manchester, hold the record for the most performances, with 46. During the five-concert Manchester leg of their 2019 tour, the arena was temporarily renamed after the band to honour their 30-year career. Irish pop group Westlife previously held the record with 33 performances.
Spice Girls performed 4 sold-out shows during their Spiceworld Tour in April 1998, 4 sold-out shows in December 1999 on the Christmas in Spiceworld Tour, and 3 sold-out shows in January 2008 on The Return of the Spice Girls World Tour.
Led Zeppelin legends Jimmy Page and Robert Plant performed a sell out concert at the arena on 3 November 1998 as part of their Walking into Clarksdale tour.
On 26 March 2000, English boy band Five performed at this venue as part of their Invincible Tour. The show was also filmed for a concert special called Five Live that was released on DVD and VHS later that same year.
Janet Jackson performed here on 31 May 1998 as part of her The Velvet Rope Tour. Jackson was scheduled to perform during her All for You Tour on 5 December 2001, but the show was cancelled with the rest of her European tour because of possible terrorist threats. Her 2016 Unbreakable World Tour was also cancelled, this time because of scheduling conflicts.
Britney Spears performed at the arena for the first time for two sold-out shows on 13 and 14 October 2000 during her Oops!...I Did It Again Tour. She has returned for additional sold-out shows on 1 May 2004 during Onyx Hotel Tour, 17 June 2009 during her Circus Tour, in 2011 for the Femme Fatale Tour, and on 18 August 2018 as part of her Piece of Me Tour.
In 2002, Kylie Minogue performed on six days in May as part of her KylieFever2002 tour. She performed part of her Showgirl Tour on five days in April 2005. In 2007, she performed on seven days in January as the final part of her Homecoming Tour. In 2008, she performed on six days in July as part of her X world tour. Minogue performed on four days in April 2011 as part of her Aphrodite World Tour. Minogue performed again at the arena on 26 September 2014. The performance marked the 30th time Minogue has performed at the arena. It is a record for Minogue as the venue she has played to most in the world; she has played to 400,000 fans in total in the Manchester Arena.
Madonna performed twice on her Re-Invention World Tour in Summer 2004, returning in 2009, on the second leg of the Sticky & Sweet Tour. Two shows were planned but one was cancelled due to unknown reasons. Madonna was late on stage in 2015 on the Rebel Heart Tour due to problems with the screen visuals resulting in a shortened set.
American entertainer Beyoncé performed three sold-out shows at the arena as part of her The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour on 7, 8 and 9 May 2013. She returned on 25 and 26 February 2014 for two more sold-out shows. Both shows became the fastest concert to sell out the entire arena. This was the fifth tour Beyoncé has performed at the arena, following concerts for her Dangerously in Love Tour (2003), Destiny Fulfilled...and Lovin' It (2005), The Beyoncé Experience (2007) and the I Am... World Tour (2009).
The arena was reopened by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and a cohort of local stars such as The Courteeners, Blossoms, Rick Astley and comedian Peter Kay as part of the "We Are Manchester" event on 9 September 2017.
On 29 November 2017, Phil Collins performed one night here with his Not Dead Yet Tour.
On 10 December 2017, Mariah Carey brought her All I Want for Christmas Is You, A Night of Joy and Festivity show here.
On April 15 and 16, 2021 the Canadian singer Celine Dion will perform there during her Courage World Tour, this will be the first shows of Dion since more than ten years. During the Celine Dion Live 2017 Celine planned to perform two concerts here, but they were reprogrammed to Leeds for the attack in May 2017.
The arena has been the home of three sports teams: the Manchester Storm and Manchester Phoenix ice hockey teams, and the Manchester Giants basketball team with limited success, as it is no longer used by sports teams but is used for one-off sporting events such as boxing and football masters.
Many boxers have had bouts in the arena, such as Amir Khan, Jermaine Johnson, Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Mike Tyson, and David Haye. Hatton, from Manchester, became a regular and favourite at the arena.
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have regularly hosted both live events and TV tapings at the Arena, including Mayhem in Manchester in 1998, pay-per-view events such as the UK version of No Mercy in 1999, and Rebellion in 2001 and 2002. Also tapings of both Raw and SmackDown in November 2015, November 2017, November 2018 and November 2019.
The arena hosted mixed martial arts events. UFC 70 on 21 April 2007, and UFC 105 on 14 November 2009 for which it set the European record attendance for the largest UFC event outside the US with 16,000 spectators. The arena also hosted UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz on 26 October 2013 as well as UFC 204 on 8 October 2016, headlining was a middleweight championship match between Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping. The World Taekwondo Qualification Event for the Beijing Olympic Games was held there on 28–30 September 2007 when 103 countries competed for 24 places at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. In April 2008, the arena hosted the FINA Short Course World Swimming Championships, the first time the event has been held in the UK. The arena was transformed with two 25 m swimming pools constructed in 18 days and seating provided for 17,250 spectators.
Monster truck racing events have been staged but the floor space has to be extended and the front section of seating in the lower tier removed.
Since 2008, it has played host to a week of the Premier League Darts.
On 26 February 2011, it played host to BAMMA 5.
In May 2011, the arena hosted a basketball contest between the Atlanta Dream (WNBA) and the Great Britain women's basketball team, billed as "WNBA Live", the first time a WNBA team had played in Europe. In July 2012, the arena hosted an international between Great Britain men's basketball team and the United States men's basketball team in the buildup to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
In early April 2018, the revamped Dancing on Ice tour performed at the venue.
The first stand-up comedy performance was Peter Kay's final performance of his Mum wants a bungalow Tour in July 2003. He worked at the arena when it opened in 1995 and the performance was filmed for DVD release as Peter Kay at the Manchester Arena. In 2005, Lee Evans set a world record for performing to the biggest audience in front of a crowd of 10,108. Peter Kay's The Tour That Doesn't Tour Tour...Now On Tour ran for 20 consecutive nights and 20 nights at the end of the tour – a record for the venue. Alan Carr filmed the DVD for Spexy Beast in Manchester.
On 19 July 2011, (with a final dress rehearsal in front of an audience on 16 July 2011) the arena hosted the world premiere of Batman Live, a touring stage show, including theatrical, circus and stage-magic elements, that focuses on the DC Comics superhero Batman.
The arena also hosts the annual convention of Jehovah's Witnesses. In 2014, this was held on 22–24 August.
The arena also hosted Ant & Dec's Takeaway on Tour: Live on 15–16 August 2014. Over the two days, about more than 120,000 people attended both matinee and evening shows.
Following the Dangerous Woman Tour concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande on 22 May 2017, a suicide bombing occurred in the arena's foyer area. Greater Manchester Police confirmed that twenty-two adults and children were killed, including the bomber, and 500 were injured.
On 14 June 2017, it was confirmed that the arena would remain closed until September, with scheduled concerts either cancelled or moved to other venues. On 9 September 2017, the arena re-opened with a benefit concert featuring Noel Gallagher and other acts associated with the North West. This was broadcast live on BBC Radio Manchester, Key 103 and Radio X.
- Lower tier fixed seated capacity – 10,762
- Upper tier fixed seated capacity – 8,870
- Ice hockey and gymnastics – up to 17,643
- FINA Swimming championships 2008 – 17,250
- Basketball – up to 20,500
- Boxing – up to 21,000
- Side stage – up to 11,150 (fully seated)
- Conventional end-stage concerts – 13,500–15,800 (fully seated)
- Conventional end-stage concerts – up to 19,350 (floor standing)
- In the round concerts – up to 20,400 (fully seated)
- In the round concerts – up to 21,000 (floor standing)
- 30 hospitality business suites (seats up to 12 guests)
- 8 top floor suites known as 'The White house' (each seats between 6 and 15 guests—located in the white sports commentators boxes when not in use)
- 4 party suites (seats up to 25 guests)
- The arena claimed to have the world's largest indoor video scoreboard when it opened in 1995. The videowall has been deactivated, but remains in situ mounted in the roof. It has been replaced with an LED Ribbonboard mounted on the video scoreboard's exterior.
The arena car park is operated by National Car Parks, and has 958 standard and 65 disabled spaces.
- List of Commonwealth Games venues
- Manchester Central Convention Complex
- City of Manchester Stadium
- Old Trafford Cricket Ground
- Temporarily closed for forensic investigation and repair work due to the Manchester Arena bombing. Events scheduled to take place were either cancelled or moved to alternative venues.
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- "Boxscore: Concert Grosses". Billboard. Nashville, Tennessee. 122 (47). 27 November 2010. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 7 January 2018. Alt URL
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