Second arena would shatter city centre economy
12 May 2020
Independent study conducted by Grant Thornton UK LLP shows:
• Manchester market will not support an additional 20,000+ capacity arena
• Approximately £114million in annual City Centre visitor spend at risk
• New out-of-town arena at Eastlands will pull visitors and spend away from City Centre economy
Results of an independent study conducted by leading business and financial advisor Grant Thornton UK LLP, in association with Oxford Economics, show the devastating impact a second large-scale arena outside of the city centre could have on Manchester’s economy and local businesses.
A planning application for a new 23,500 capacity arena has now been submitted to Manchester City Council, and is open for public consultation until the 21st May. A major second arena was previously suggested as part of the Council’s Eastlands Regeneration Framework, which focuses on development in and surrounding the Etihad Campus.
This proposal now includes plans for 181,000+ sq ft of out-of-town Class A F&B and retail space. For context, this is far larger than the Corn Exchange and seven times the national threshold by which a council must consider the impact of a new development on a city centre.
Grant Thornton’s independent research clearly demonstrates there is no market for two 20,000+ capacity arenas in Manchester. The Eastlands Venue puts our existing Arena and an already fragile city centre (post-COVID-19) at great risk.
Manchester cannot sustain two 20,000 capacity arenas
Grant Thornton reviewed nine large-scale arenas in the UK and found that most only had one or two other arenas within a 60-minute drive time, whereas Manchester (a top five global venue for attendances) already has three.
Manchester also has the second lowest population per arena within a 60-minute drive time. That figure would reduce further with the introduction of another large-scale venue in close proximity. Future industry projections demonstrate a very real risk that two arenas will end up in unsustainable competition with each other.
Manchester Arena’s economic impact
Grant Thornton also considered the wider economic impact of having an arena in the City Centre. The study shows the positive impact of Manchester Arena, with gross spend by arena visitors estimated to be £120million in 2018. 95 per cent (£114million) of this spend generated by people visiting the arena takes place in the City Centre.
This supports qualitative data obtained by City Centre businesses, with the likes of Selfridges and The Lowry having cited the significant impact events at the Manchester Arena have on footfall and spend.
Speaking about the Arena’s impact, Adrian Ellis, general manager at The Lowry and chairman of Manchester Hoteliers’ Association, said: “The success of Manchester Arena plays a big part in the hotels’ current occupancy levels. In the city hotels are doing circa 80 per cent for the year – which is a great occupancy.”
Risk to City Centre trade
Looking at how spend might change if the proposed new arena at Eastlands goes ahead, a survey showed:
• Over half of people would be less likely to travel into the City Centre if the event they attended was at an arena outside of the City Centre
• Around 45% said they would spend less in the City Centre if the event they attended was at an arena outside of the City Centre
• The study demonstrates the significant risk of losing Manchester Arena to an out-of-town location, and subsequent drop in overall economic impact to the City Centre
Rob Turner, director at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “The Manchester Arena currently makes a significant contribution to the city centre, providing over 2,200 jobs and helping to stimulate the local economy. Our analysis shows that a new out-of-town arena would put this at risk and have a knock-on effect to the success of the city centre as visitors are pulled away and spending levels decrease.”
You can have your say on plans for the Eastlands Venue and submit a response before 11 June here.
You can download and read Grant Thornton’s research in more detail here.