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Planning review announced for MSG Sphere London

LLDC will debate the proposed Stratford music venue this September – if plans are approved, it will become the UK’s largest concert arena


MSG (Madison Square Gardens)’s planning application (which went in for planning in March 2019) will be reviewed at the end of next month by the LLDC (London Legacy Development Corporation). The triangular site stretches to 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres) and was sold to MSG for £9 million in 2015. It was formerly a coach park, sited next to Westfield Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

If agreed, the Sphere would out-gun the O2, boasting – at 21,500 – the largest capacity for an indoor venue in the UK. The design is not only large but bold: its outer skin will be covered in illuminated LEDs which will glow for 24 hours a day and include animated advertisements for half that time.

Following in the footsteps of Vegas

However the London Sphere is not the first of its kind. MSG is already constructing a similar venue in Las Vegas, slated for completion in 2023. The innovative spheres, designed by Populous, promise to offer the “next generation of immersive experiences”. The spheres will feature an infrasound haptic system that delivers deep vibrations so guests can actually feel sound. “Beamforming” audio tech sends sound to each and every seat in the auditorium. “There’s not a bad seat in the house,” says Nick Tomasino, vice president of construction for MSG.

The LED screens will be the biggest and highest resolution screen worldwide and will wrap around the audience, creating a totally immersive experience.

Populous is well-known for its projects within the attractions industry and is no stranger to London builds. It designed the 2012 Olympic stadium, Wembley Stadium, the Emirates Stadium and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It also created the O2 arena within the former Dome.

MSG Sphere London

More than a music venue

As previously reported, the Sphere will host esports events, ring sports, circus events and shows alongside music concerts. Alongside the giant auditorium, the plans also include a separate 1,500 capacity venue for emerging acts, F&B outlets, shops, and outdoor spaces.

“This is an opportunity to take an inaccessible coach park and use it to support thousands of jobs, and billions of pounds of economic benefit,” said Jayne McGivern, MSG’s executive vice president of development and construction. The company says the project is likely to create 4,300 jobs across its three-year construction, and support 3,200 jobs annually. It would be expected to generate revenue of £2.7 billion over 20 years.

Anti-sphere campaign

However the London Sphere will face stiff opposition. Historic England claims it could damage nearby conservation sites, creating an “intrusive disturbance on their settings”. West Ham FC and the O2 have complained to the LLDC. Newham and Hackney councils have lodged objections. Local residents have also expressed concerns about the size of the venue and the potential light pollution.

Any decision by the LLDC will ultimately be referred to London mayor, Sadiq Kahn.

Images: MSG London

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