Chief Operating Officer | OVG International

Mark Donnelly, chief operating officer at OVG International, has worked on many high-profile projects during his career, from opening one of the world’s most iconic arenas, The O2, to delivering St Georges Park at The FA, where all of England’s competitive national soccer teams train and prepare. His latest milestone: taking Co-Op Live from early feasibility to opening.

Anticipation for Manchester’s new 23,000-capacity entertainment temple, the first international venue by Oak View Group (VenuesNow’s parent company), has been building since its plans got approved in 2020. Since the summer, concerts and events have been announced constantly, making the April 2024 opening feel very real.

“It’s a very exciting period for us,” Donnelly says, adding, “I think this venue will change the industry in Europe and internationally.”

Co-op Live, a clear priority, isn’t the only building across the pond that’s being developed by OVG. Other projects are underway in Vienna and Madrid. “There are a lot of opportunities in Europe, Middle East and Asia that we are actively working on in both arenas and stadiums,” Donnelly says. All of those projects will benefit from the recent acquisitions of catering firms Bovingdons and Rhubarb, which “transforms our food and beverage offer internationally.”

The current demand for high-class entertainment, blockbuster events and megastars means OVG “remain very bullish about the live entertainment industry and the demand for new venues. The experience that customers and fans want gives a very strong case for new venues.”

The developers of these arenas have a challenging economy to deal with, particularly in Europe, where inflation meets a healthy “appetite for these large, complex projects from contractors.” While “this puts a strain on the business case to justify the project, the great advantage we have is that we have so much knowledge from building eight arenas over the last three years,” he says. “We are better placed than anyone else to make these projects work.”

What helps Donnelly work through these challenges is having “a very clear focus and understanding of what’s important, and what we want to achieve. Generally, people who work in the industry are pretty resilient and adaptable, and we have certainly seen that over the last few years. Providing a supportive and positive environment is important.”

Also important is family life, which “gives a nice break from work and sport keeps us busy at weekends,” according to Donnelly, who has three boys. “I’m looking forward to taking a break over the holidays and then recharging the batteries for a huge 2024.”

Back To IMPACT: International UK/ EURO index