Sphere ‘in talks’ over Abu Dhabi expansion

Las Vegas’ Sphere venue

Featured Image Credit: Sphere Entertainment Co

Abu Dhabi has emerged as a contender to be the location of a Sphere arena, with reports claiming talks are at an advanced stage.

Sphere Entertainment is eager to expand after the opening of its flagship $2.3bn (€2.7bn/$2.8bn) venue in Las Vegas earlier this year. However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has refused a planning application, while discussions over arenas in Saudi Arabia and South Korea have apparently stalled.

Now the New York Post reports that James Dolan, chief executive of Sphere Entertainment, is in “serious talks” with the UAE about licensing a Sphere arena in the Middle Eastern country. The newspaper cited sources familiar with the matter.

“These are serious talks with Abu Dhabi. They keep going back and forth,” the source told The Post.

Plans for a new Sphere arena in London were rejected by Khan in November on the grounds that the current proposals would have an “unacceptable negative impact” on local residents. However, that decision is currently under review by ministers in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

While London’s authorities may be cautious about the impact on residents of a vast venue covered in more than one million LED lights, the UAE has welcomed the addition of pioneering and ambitious projects in recent years.

TheTicketingBusiness understands that Sphere Entertainment has plans in place for as many as eight arenas around the world. “We are in substantive discussions with multiple international markets,” about building more Spheres, the company said in a recent public statement without naming markets.

Sphere’s huge loss in most recent period

Las Vegas’ Sphere posted an operating loss of $98.4m during the most recent quarter, up to the end of September 2023.

The Sphere, the spectacular 18,600-capacity arena, announced takings of $4.1m during the three months to September 30, despite only hosting its first concert the day before.

In total, the venue generated revenue of $7.8m during the Q1 2024 period, with $2.6m of income coming from sponsorship, signage, Exosphere advertising and suite licence fees.

However, the venue posted a Q1 operating loss of $98.4m. This increased by $19.4m year-on-year primarily reflecting higher depreciation and amortisation, direct operating expenses, and selling, general and administrative expenses, partially offset by the increase in revenues.

U2 opened the venue on September 29, with all the band’s concerts so far sold out. U2 will continue their residency until February, with 36 dates planned so far.