Venue

Developers withdraw plans for Sphere arena in London

Featured Image: Sphere Entertainment

Featured Image: Sphere Entertainment

Sphere Entertainment has dropped plans to build a new arena in London after Mayor Sadiq Khan rejected the project on the grounds that it would have an “unacceptable negative impact” on local residents.

Khan spoke out against the plans back in November, highlighting “significant light intrusion” as one of the issues that the Sphere arena would cause to locals.

Sphere Entertainment had been seeking to build a venue with 17,500 seats in the heart of Stratford, East London. The company recently opened a Sphere venue in the US city of Las Vegas, with the arena featuring the world’s largest LED screen.

Following Khan’s rejection of the plans, the UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, led by Michael Gove, sought to intervene in an effort to prevent the collapse of the project.

It has now emerged that the plans have been withdrawn, with Sky News reporting that Madison Square Garden Entertainment, the parent company of Sphere Entertainment, has written to British officials to inform them of its intention to pull out.

Sphere Entertainment said the process has become a “political football between rival political parties”. In a letter sent to the UK’s Planning Inspectorate, which was seen by PA Media, MSG Entertainment said that it was “extremely disappointing” London would not benefit from a Sphere arena and the “thousands of well-paying jobs” it would have created.

A Sphere Entertainment spokesperson told Sky News: “We have informed Mr Gove that our decision not to move forward with our plans for Sphere in London stands, and we will not be participating in the call-in process.

“We would like to thank all of those who worked earnestly to bring this project to London. We are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with forward-thinking cities around the world who are serious about bringing this next-generation entertainment experience to their communities.”

In March 2022, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) approved plans for a Sphere venue in the English capital. At the time, Paul Westbury, executive vice-president of development and construction at Sphere Entertainment, said the application had passed through a “thorough assessment”, adding that the venue would help make Stratford a “global destination for music and technology”.

After Khan rejected the plans in November, a spokesperson for Sphere Entertainment said that while it was disappointed in the decision, it would concentrate on the “many forward-thinking cities” that are eager to bring the technology to their communities.

Last month, it was reported that Sphere Entertainment was in “serious talks” to establish a venue in Abu Dhabi. The New York Post, citing a source close to the situation, said Sphere Entertainment executive chairman and chief executive, James Dolan, was in talks with investors to build an arena in the city after talks with developers in Saudi Arabia and South Korea stalled.

The Vegas venue was built at a cost of $2.3bn (£1.8bn/€2.1bn) and has drawn attention for its eye-catching visuals. The arena opened in September with the first of 36 performances from U2, and formed a key part of the street circuit for Formula 1’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix in November.

Let us know your thoughts on the apparent demise of MSG’s London Sphere plans. Is the UK and its live entertainment industry missing out on a game-changing development? Or is this a project that requires a rethink? Email: news.editor@theticketingbusiness.com.