Following extensive enabling works since the beginning of the year, construction of the UK’s largest entertainment arena in Manchester has started this week, kickstarting a wave of economic activity and job creation across Greater Manchester. Co-op Live is being built by Salford-based BAM construction, who have revealed that almost £150m of the construction orders have already been placed with local firms.

OVG, the developer, is investing over £350 million to create one of the best and most sustainable live entertainment arenas in Europe. The construction project is one of the biggest to commence nationally since the onset of Covid and will provide a much-needed boost for the local construction industry at a critical time for economic recovery after the pandemic.

At its peak, Co-op Live’s construction site will see some 400 people working on it daily. BAM estimates that more than 2,000 people will work on the site over its three-year construction phase, comprising the majority of the 3,350 total jobs the project will support from now to 2023.

OVG have forecast that Co-op Live will create a further 1,000 jobs when operational.

The team behind Co-op Live are committed to local procurement, and a range of businesses across Greater Manchester and the wider North West region are being used to help create the venue, with a dozen firms from the region already engaged in the project.

9,000 tons of steelwork will be provided from a depot in Bolton, while a huge order for mechanical and electrical works has been placed with a firm based on Altrincham Road in Manchester, SES. The striking façade and roof are being delivered by a firm in Cheadle.

Other services that will be provided by local companies include concrete, grouting, and lifts, plus smaller contracts for hoardings, welfare, catering, and security.

An impressive apprenticeships programme is set to be announced as the construction programme accelerates. Inclusion and diversity are embedded into BAM’s workforce goals, around gender parity, and diversity (as an example at least 15% of employees from ethnic minority backgrounds), at least 5% of employees who identify as LGBTQ+ and employees who live with disabilities are appropriately supported.

Tim Leiweke, Chief Executive OVG, said: “The beginning of the construction of Co-op Live is an exciting step in our plans to deliver one of Europe’s best and most sustainable arenas for Manchester.

“Co-op Live is an arena by Manchester, for Manchester, and of Manchester. Since revealing our plans last year, we have remained committed to maximising the benefits it brings to the city and the whole North West. Today’s milestone of £150m in orders for local firms is a proud moment for the project and will help support local jobs and ensure the positive impact of our investment is being felt already.”

Robert Doherty, Operations Director for SES (Engineering Services) Strategic Projects, which is delivering the full Mechanical and Electrical works for the scheme said:

“As a local contractor our team mainly live and work in and around Manchester and this project has a real buzz about it. It has got everyone here excited and it is terrific for us to be involved. We are engaging with our own supply chain ensuring that packages are delivered by companies from the Manchester area. We will have over 100 people working on this project, creating opportunities for local people to be involved.”

Work has started, with millions of pounds of bulk excavation and remediation work underway that will provide work for the region’s hauliers and plant companies.

Ian Fleming, the Director of BAM Construction in the North West, said:

“The highly digital way we work allows us to achieve the sustainability demanded by the most ambitious clients in the world and it attracts young entrants to our profession like Arooj Ali. Working smarter means working safer for those 2000 people that will cross our boundary and using technology and techniques like off-site manufacturing.

“We rely on the quality of our supply chain here in the North West and how well we work with them to integrate all these elements together. Greater Manchester has got the talent and resources we need, and it means BAM’s work here for this northern landmark will boost the local economy and bring big social benefits for people living here, all of which is a source of great pride to me.”

BAM’s first apprentice on site is Arooj Ali, a construction trainee apprentice, said:

“I’m eager to be working with BAM on this incredible project and aim to help inspire other young people to enter the industry. I would like to especially encourage ethnic minorities to join, even if they haven’t previously considered doing so. Construction is forever evolving, and we are always faced with new, exciting challenges where no two days are the same.

“Living in the Preston area, people are always talking about the new arena, and hearing about a project that I’ve played a part in creating, has been a brilliant way to continue my career in the construction industry. We’re all excited about the return of live music and events, so being able to hopefully attend these in a new, state of the art venue will be a really rewarding experience!”


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