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HOK Designs Transformative Renovation to Manchester’s AO Arena

Manchester’s AO Arena, a venue which helped shape the city’s famed music scene, recently marked the completion of a £50 million redevelopment led by architecture firm HOK.

The project enhanced capacity, improved the event experience for fans and artists and created new seating products, all while preserving the legacy of one of Europe’s most iconic live music venues.

HOK’s design solutions created revenue-generating spaces in previously underutilized areas of the arena. A new general admission concourse doubles the capacity of the event floor. The design also features a new hospitality entrance leading to a first-of-its-kind bar and restaurant experience called The Mezz that offers direct access to the Arena bowl. The Mezz sits between the concourse and 23,000 capacity seating bowl. Guests can move seamlessly from their tables to the best seats in the house which boasts spectacular, panoramic views of the main stage. Additional point of sale locations further improves the guest experience.

The design team also reimagined the back-of-house and artist spaces. Artist areas now feature a distinctive entry experience and the design creates a clear threshold between private artist space and the service yard. Upgraded dressing rooms, a renovated green room and fresh crew catering spaces will help attract music’s biggest acts.

“Our vision audaciously uncovered hidden commercial opportunities in a complex, more than 25-year-old venue,” said John Rhodes, RIBA, ARB, Director of Sports + Entertainment for HOK. “We are honoured to have played a lead role in sustainably expanding the venue’s capacity and event experience for one of the UK’s biggest indoor entertainment destinations. The project secures a bold future for live events in Manchester.”

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