The M.E.N. Arena is one of Europe's largest indoor arena's. The arena was built to coincide with Manchester's two bids to host the Olympic games in 1996 and 2000 (which were won by Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000).
The M.E.N. Arena was one of the first indoor venues in Europe to be built following the traditionally American arena layout of 360 degree seating and is the only arena in the UK to have this feature (London's O2 Arena has just one tier of seating that is 360 degrees wheras the MEN Arena has two) Other European indoor venues built to the same concept are the Kölnarena in Cologne, O2 arena in Prague, Color Line Arena in Hamburg, and The O2 arena in London, amongst others.
The M.E.N.'s seating capacity is one of Europe's most flexible for an indoor venue. It is often chosen by touring acts because its design and layout makes the venue ideal for any type of performance. The seating is split into an upper tier (bowl) and a lower tier, separated by 35 hospitality suites.
The M.E.N. Arena has attracted a huge number of customers since opening its doors in 1995, as it is the largest indoor arena in the UK. The venue attracts over a million customers each year for concerts and family shows alone, making the venue one of the world's busiest indoor arenas, in regard to this the M.E.N. Arena was named "International Venue Of The Year" in 2001 by concert industry insiders in the 'Pollstar' awards, and was nominated in the same category in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The M.E.N. Arena was also named "Busiest Arena Venue In The World", based on ticket sales for concerts in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 beating competition from other indoor arena's including New York's Madison Square Garden and London's Wembley Arena. The Arena has also been named the 'World's Busiest Arena' of the last 5 years (2001-2007) based solely on ticket sales for concerts, attracting five and a half million customers to concerts. In the first quarter of 2008 London's O2 Arena has surpassed the Manchester venue in terms of ticket sales for concerts, due mainly to the fact the Spice Girls played 17 consecutive nights at the London venue attracting more than 250,000 concert attendees.
Despite its success, the venue is criticised by some locals. It is seen by some as a soulless concrete bowl, with heavily overpriced merchandise, food and drink, However this could be said to be the same as any major entertainment arena. The upper tier of the arena is also very steep due to the arena being constructed in the heart of the city centre, and the view from the rear blocks (207-210) is poor depending on the event that is being held; Yet the tickets in these blocks are often priced at the same rate as those with a much better view.
In 2007 the Arena was named 'World's Busiest Arena' for concerts for a record 5th time, the top ten venues in 2007 were:
|Venue||2007 Ticket sales for concerts/shows|
|Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester, UK||1,245,196|
|Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA||1,230,433|
|O2 Arena, London, UK||1,209,376|
|Wembley Arena, London, UK||901,778|
|Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada||670,255|
|HP Pavilion, San Jose, California, USA||666,587|
|Bell Centre, Montreal, Canada||620,403|
|Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia, USA||564,258|
|American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas, USA||539,030|
|Izod Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA||527,694|
Boxers such as Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Mike Tyson, Jeff Lacy, Kostya Tszyu and other world champions have fought there. Hatton became a regular and favourite of the M.E.N. Arena until his split with Frank Warren, who has exclusive rights there for boxing shows. Amir Khan has also fought at the venue.
WWE has hosted multiple events at the Arena over the years. It first hosted WWF Mayhem in Manchester in 1998 drawing over 19,600 people (a European record for an indoor WWF/WWE event) The arena also hosted WWE No Mercy in 1999. On October 26, 2002 it hosted the SmackDown! UK-only pay-per-view WWE Rebellion, as it did in 2001. Also on October 11, 2004, it hosted the first ever RAW that was filmed in Europe, and was followed the next day by a taping of WWE SmackDown!. RAW and SmackDown! returned to the M.E.N. Arena on 13 November and 14 November 2006 and will once again return for live tapings of RAW and Smackdown on 10 and 11 November 2008 respectively.
The M.E.N. Arena hosted the mixed martial arts event UFC 70 on April 21, 2007. The World Taekwondo Qualification Event for the Beijing Olympic Games was held at the Arena on September 28-20, 2007; at this event 103 countries competed for 24 places at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Also in April 2008 the arena hosted the FINA shortcourse swimming championships, the first time it has been held in the UK. For this the arena was transformed into a 17,250-seat swimming event venue. Two 25 m swimming pools were constructed into the floor of the arena and the pools were completed within 18 days.
The arena was also used by Manchester United when they won the Champions League in 1999. The arena was the final destination of their bus tour which saw United parading the trophy to around 750,000 fans across Manchester, including 19,500 fans in the arena itself. The 2008 UEFA Champions League Final was also shown in the arena on a big screen in front of 7000 spectators.
The venue is built on top of Victoria train station. This therefore provides good access to the arena from train lines calling here. A Metrolink tram stop is also located in the train station. This provides services to Bury in one direction and the city centre, onwards to Altrincham and Eccles, in the other. Vistors traveling by train to Manchester Piccadily can either walk to the arena or catch a tram from Piccadily to Victoria. A number of bus routes always run to the area of the arena.
The arena has its own large car park nearby but by its nature endures delays upon departure after the event, as everyone tries to exit at the same time. Other smaller car parks are located around the city centre. On street parking can be found in the area and on the various streets around the main Deangate street area. Parking regulations allow for people to park in pay and display on-street parking bays and single yellow lines for free after 6pm, which is great for concert goers. Always check any signage though to be sure. Visitors should be careful not to park on double yellow lines or other restricted marked areas though in the city. Some people may not think that traffic wardens will be around at night, this is not the case in Manchester though where people have been known to ticketed at any time of the night if illegally parked.