Plans for Vegas-style MSG Sphere venue in London have been rejected

“The Mayor has seen independent evidence that shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents.”

Las Vegas Sphere

Las Vegas Sphere. Credit: George Rose/Getty

Plans to build a MSG Sphere in east London have been rejected by London mayor Sadiq Khan.

The proposals were first drawn up in 2018 and if built, the 21,500 capacity arena would have been the largest in the UK. They were put forward by the same company that runs iconic New York arena Madison Square Garden.

The company had purchased a 1.9-hectare (4.7-acre) site in Stratford adjacent to the Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre on which to build Sphere, which also would have housed shops, restaurants and potentially a smaller 1,500 capacity venue to help support grassroots artists. The land had been used as a coach park during the London 2012 Olympics.

Now, Khan has rejected the plans at the stage 2 decision following widespread opposition from local residents as well as the area’s MP, Lyn Brown, who had called the venue a “monstrosity”.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city.

“But as part of looking at the planning application for the MSG Sphere, the Mayor has seen independent evidence that shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents.”

Concerns had been raised over the impact of light pollution and environmental impact caused by the estimated 1,000,000 LED light bulbs and bright advertisements that would have been used on its exterior. MSG had promised to provide blackout blinds to homes within 150 metres of the venue, as well as those with a direct view of it, and set up a telephone line for complaints.

Other opponents of the plans pointed to the potential for the venue to put strain on local infrastructure, especially the nearby Stratford station which already handles a large volume of people from Westfield and for London Stadium, which is used by West Ham football club.

Sphere
Sphere. Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Getty

The venue  also faced opposition from AEG, which objected due to the proximity of the proposed site to its own arena, The O2, which is only four miles away.

Nate Higgins, the local Green Party Councillor for Stratford Olympic Park, shared a statement on Facebook, writing: “Absolutely delighted to share that our campaigning on behalf of residents in Stratford Olympic Park alongside Against the MSG Sphere London has paid off, and Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London has today rejected the MSG Sphere planning application in his stage 2 decision.

He added: “London’s cultural venues are incredibly important, but this application was always completely inappropriate for the site and the 25 year advertising consent the applicants demanded show they were not interested in contributing to our capital’s cultural scene – only bombarding the residents of Stratford with endless advertising.

“We’ll have more to say in the coming weeks about what happens next, but this incredible victory goes to show the value of community organising and listening to residents. As the local councillors, we’ll never stop doing that.”

A statement from a Sphere Entertainment spokesperson said: “While we are disappointed in London’s decision, there are many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities. We will concentrate on those.”

The Las Vegas Sphere opened in September with a residency from U2, which recently got extended until February 2024. However, it was recently reported that the venue had made a loss of $98.4 million, having cost $2.3 billion to build.

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