Bam aware of Manchester arena ductwork issues weeks ago

Bam Construction discovered ductwork problems at its thrice-delayed £365m Manchester arena project during acoustic tests last month, Construction News can reveal.

A letter to council officers flagging the issue has come to light, hours after an air conditioning failure last night caused the last-minute cancellation of its third attempt at an opening night.

The Co-op Live arena called off last night’s scheduled Boogie Wit Da Hoodie show after part of an air conditioning unit fell from a gantry during a soundcheck.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit separated from the ductwork, developer Oak View Group said.

Previous issues with ductwork at the arena were first picked up during noise tests, according to planning documents Bam submitted to Manchester City Council on 9 April, weeks before the venue was due to open on 23 April.

Two Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) intake louvres at a hangout bar on the building’s fourth floor were not connected to the louvres with ductwork, consultancy SRL said in a letter to planning officers.

It is not clear if this is related to the HVAC unit that fell yesterday.

Work was taking place to rectify the installation of the ductwork, “sealed appropriately to the louvres and lagged with a dense barrier material”, Bam told the council in a letter.

Council planning officers have yet to formally sign off the work, a council source today told Construction News.

Wates-owned SES Engineering Services delivered the project’s mechanical and electrical works.

Oak View said that although it believed last night’s problem to be an isolated incident “caused by a factory defect”, it had not been able to verify that all similar nozzles were free of such defects so had made the call to cancel the concert.

Those queuing for the scheduled concert were informed minutes before the performance.

The installer, contractor and third-party inspectors will test ductwork nozzles similar to the one that caused the problem, the developer added.

Tim Leiweke, chairman and chief executive of Oak View Group, said: “The safety and security of all visiting and working on Co-op Live is our utmost priority, and we could not and will not run any event until it is absolutely safe to do so.

“Today was a very unexpected situation but without a doubt the right decision. I deeply apologise for the impact that this has had on ticket holders and fans.”

The venue has repeatedly delayed its opening night due to problems with the building. Comedian Peter Kay’s two sold-out shows were postponed last week to complete internal security systems and fire safety works.

The venue added that it was a “few days behind” completing its power supply work.

The arena’s general manager Gary Roden resigned last Thursday (April 25), after facing backlash for suggesting some smaller music venues were “poorly run”.

Shortly after pulling the Boogie Wit Da Hoodie show, the venue announced it was postponing popstar Olivia Rodrigo’s upcoming concert dates.

The 21 year-old singer, who had been due to perform on 3 and 4 May, wrote on Instagram that she was “so bummed” about the cancellations.

Bam Construct UK has been contacted for comment. SES services declined to comment.

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