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Europe's largest indoor arena largely comes up to scratch
Evening News Arena
Member Name: mrjoegoodwin
Evening News Arena
Advantages: Good views from most seats, big name acts
Disadvantages: Variable sound quality, expensive parking
The Manchester Evening News Arena (MEN for short) is currently the largest indoor arena in Europe, able to seat up to 22,000 patrons for sporting events and concerts, with the full capacity being achieved for U2's 'Elevation Tour' in 2001.
Situated in the centre of the city, the arena is adjacent to Victoria station and tram stop, providing excellent transport links into the city, directly to the venue from destinations across the north west.
As tends to be standard with modern arenas, the concourses around the outside of the venue are completely open, allowing you full access to have a wander round and get a feel for what the venue has to offer you. There are numerous food and drink merchants, bars and merchandise stalls in these concourses, all of which tend to get overcrowded very quickly, so arrive in plenty of time before your event starts if you want to be sure of getting a quick pint before the show starts. Prices for food and drink are fairly standard for a modern venue, and on the expensive side, but bag searches at the entrance from the stewards will normally prevent you from bringing in your own refreshments, so if you have to have something whilst you are at the show, bring plenty of cash. A handy tip for events that have standing on the arena floor (most rock/pop gigs) - make use of the mobile beer sellers! Look out for the people on the arena floor with beer dispensers attached to their back - you tend to get served a lot more quickly here than you would if you queued at one of the main bars. The beer quality isn't always wonderful, but the option is there if you want it.
Views from the standing area are generally good, and if you arrive early enough, you can get a really good spot on the barrier in front of the stage, but expect a crush from the thousands of fans behind you! Even arriving after the support band has finished can sometimes get you a decent vantage point towards the sides of the stage, but as with all events where standing is permitted, expect people to push and shove past you on a regular basis, so don't expect to stay in the same position for long.
In the seats, blocks 102 and 115 to the sides of the stage offer excellent views, with seats being tiered in a steep enough fashion to ensure you have a clear view over the people in front of you, but without leaving you suffering from vertigo if you're near the top. Above the lower tier seats are the executive boxes, and you can often catch a glimpse of some of Manchester's celebrities making their way to the fancy seats. I've personally seen Ian Brown, footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, Tim Cahill and Lucas Neill, several members of the Lancashire County Cricket team and Coleen Rooney at various gigs at the MEN in the 9 years or so that I have attended gigs here.
Above the executive boxes are the upper tier seats, again offering generally good views, but if you are towards the rear of the block, especially those at the back of the venue, then expect to be spending more time watching the big screens than you do the stage itself. Some events offer 'restricted' or 'side' view tickets, and I've seen Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Foo Fighters from such seats in recent years. Don't be put off - normally the views here are excellent, particularly in the lower tier seats, and offer you a different view of the concert. Prices aren't always cheaper here (shame on you MEN), but I would pick them over standard upper tier seats any day.
Parking at the venue is a mixed bag. You can park up at any number of unofficial car parks on side roads around the arena, or pay a premium to use the official car park underneath the arena itself. Be warned though, parking here will not only cost a lot, it will delay your journey time home by a long time, as police will control the exit of traffic to ensure crowd safety on the streets. If you can, take public transport, or park for free slightly further away and take a 15 minute walk.
In terms of sound quality, again the MEN is a mixed bag. I've seen fantastic (Eric Clapton) and terrible (Limp Bizkit) sound mixes here, so the acoustics largely depend on the success of the soundcheck and the audiophiles that work the sound desk. No worse than any other modern arena though in my opinion.
As a Manchester local, the MEN is a great venue, as most big name acts that do arena tours will play here, and in addition to some of the names I've mentioned above, Lionel Richie, George Michael, AC/DC and Madonna have all played at the MEN in the past couple of years. It's not a unique concert experience, but you should have a good time at the Evening News Arena if you ever take a visit there.
Summary: A very good venue in the North West for concerts and sporting events
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