AO Arena celebrates its £50m redevelopment with spectacular topping-out ceremony

The AO Arena marked the completion of its monumental £50m redevelopment this week and kicked off 2024 with the biggest celebration in the venue’s history. With much to toast, alongside the reveal of the ambitious redevelopment project, AO confirmed the extension of its naming rights partnership into 2030, reaffirming its commitment to the venue’s continued success.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham was in attendance, making a speech to attendees and welcoming the new era of “The AO”. Plus, Manchester chart-toppers, and Mercury Prize and Brit Award nominees Blossoms were invited to attend as special guests.

Mayor Andy Burnham described the venue as “the beating heart of Manchester” and celebrated its ongoing commitment to the city and its status as the UK’s capital of music.

The band placed their hands in cement on the concourse, leaving their handprints in perpetuity in the fabric of the venue and immortalising their legacy in the city.

Blossoms said:

When the AO Arena opened again after Covid, we were the first band to play a gig here. We’re excited to celebrate the official topping out of the re-developments and look forward to seeing what the future AO Arena has to offer.

AO Arena is globally-renowned as the biggest in Europe and one of the busiest indoor venues in the world. On a mission to future-proof the venue for generations to come, AO Arena has undergone a transformative £50m redevelopment. For artists and crew, the ASM Global venue has seen a complete back of house update to further enhance the artist experience, including a new artist green room, as well as upgraded artist dressing rooms and crew facilities.

Guests of honour at this week’s topping-out ceremony included Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, and chart-toppers Blossoms who set their handprints into the walls of the new concourse to mark the occasion

There has been a total overhaul of the event day guest experience. Brand new entrances and state of the art technology mean that getting in and out of the arena will be the quickest in any venue in Europe, letting fans relax into the show. There is a brand new lower concourse bar area, with a capacity of 6,000, designed to support the increased standing floor capacity within the arena bowl. This new space allows the venue to grow its overall capacity to levels that no other venue will be able to match in Europe for many of the shows.

There are new bars in the main concourse, allowing the venue to serve more people more quickly, and providing guests with a much bigger choice of food and beverage than ever before.

Plus, the highly anticipated new bar and restaurant, The Mezz is set to open in March. Here, AO Arena will be treating guests to an unrivalled pre-show experience with some of the best seats in the house and access to some of the best restaurants in the world. This comes as a result of a first-of-its-kind partnership with chef Simon Rogan MBE of UMBEL restaurants and chef Tom Barnes of Skof restaurant. The partnership will see the introduction of quarterly seasonal dishes, regular appearances from both chefs and access to produce from Simon Rogan’s ‘Our Farm’, located under two hours from Manchester.

Luke Combs at AO Arena: For 30 incredible years, the AO Arena has underpinned Manchester’s thriving music scene with world-class artists including as Prince, Elton John, New Order, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Billie Eilish, Oasis, Dua Lipa and The Courteeners taking to the stage for unforgettable, electric performances

There have been upgrades to the areas that guests do not see, with improved acoustics and sound which were already widely regarded as the best in Europe. Industry-leading heating and ventilation systems have been installed, which are essential in any build in a post covid world, to make the whole venue safer and more environmentally sustainable. There are improvements to the venue’s security, too, with the addition of a new state-of-the-art control room.

Supported by AO since 2020 on an initial five-year deal, it has also been announced this week that the naming rights partnership will extend until at least 2030.

Jen Mitchell, GM of AO Arena, said:

We are delighted to have extended our partnership with AO, a partner who shares our sincere commitment to improving our local communities. Together, we look forward to continuing our work shaping the thriving creative and cultural scene in Manchester.

For 30 incredible years, the AO Arena has underpinned Manchester’s thriving music scene with world-class artists including as Prince, Elton John, New Order, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Billie Eilish, Oasis, Dua Lipa and The Courteeners taking to the stage for unforgettable, electric performances. And that’s not all, the arena is the venue of choice for Peter Kay to play his record-breaking 50+ date residency, and has also played host to The Commonwealth Games, The Davis Cup, boxing bouts with Mike Tyson, Anthony Joshua, Ricky Hatton and much more.

The AO Arena has firmly cemented itself as one of Manchester’s most vital cultural landmarks. Welcoming over one million people to the venue each year, this exciting new era of the AO Arena promises to attract even more guests and fans through its doors to witness everything from internationally-acclaimed icons, the next generation of musical legends, comedy stars and sporting spectacles.

Last year, AO Arena celebrated its best year yet, raising tens of thousands of pounds and giving hundreds of hours to local community projects, celebrating record attendances for LTA Tennis, England Netball, KSI vs Fury and Elton John’s Farewell Tour. This year, there’s plenty to come, including The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals, Peter Kay Live, The 1975, Bill Bailey, Niall Horan, Ne-Yo and more.

Theresa Brown, Senior Project Interior Designer at HOK said:

It is great to see this HOK-conceived design becoming a reality, unlocking the potential of the Arena and creating great hospitality experiences for customers to enjoy.

HOK’s creative approach managed to increase the capacity on the event floor from 3,600 to 6,200 by leveraging underused storage spaces.

Jon Lee, Creative Director at 20.20 Limited, added:

It’s been great to be a part of the development to bring entertaining, memorable and fun customer experience to this monumental arena.

Source & imagery, courtesy: AO Arena / ASM Global

Sports Venue Business (SVB) has unveiled a raft of new offerings for 2024 under the SVB LIVE banner, including networking events & a webinar series, culminating in an annual conference & exhibition – the dates and venue to be announced in the coming days – with an Expert Group helping to shape the conversation. We are also launching the exclusive, subscription-only ‘SVB Global Report’, outlining New Builds, Renovations & Major Refurbishment projects.

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