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Sadiq Khan rejects plans for Las Vegas style Sphere in London

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan has rejected plans to build a Las Vegas-style Sphere venue in the city.

First announced back in 2018, the 21,500-capacity venue was the brainchild of Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp (MSG), the team behind the iconic New York venue of the same name, and would have been the largest concert arena in the UK.

The plans for the venue – which would have been the city’s equivalent to the MSG Las Vegas Sphere – arose when the company submitted a planning application to the London Legacy Development Corporation, requesting to transform a site in Stratford.

It was set to sit on a 1.9-hectare (4.7-acre) site in Stratford that was purchased by MSG. The land, which is adjacent to both the Olympic Park and the Westfield shopping centre, was used as a coach park during the 2012 London Olympics.

Futuristic mock-up images of the venue were published in 2019, and the company then shared further details about the new space in September the following year – including the news that Network Rail had withdrawn its initial objection to the construction of the arena.

Plans to build a smaller 1,500-capacity venue inside the orb-like arena that could provide a platform for grassroots artists were also documented by the MSG, as well as shops and restaurants.

The Sphere is seen at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States on October 1, 2023. CREDIT: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Now, however, it has been reported that Mayor Sadiq Khan has rejected plans to construct the venue due to the negative impact it would have on the Stratford residents.

“London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city,” read a statement from a spokesperson for Khan.

“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.”

As reported by ITV News, the 2019 application reported that thousands of jobs would be made available during the construction phase, however, thousands of residents in the area later objected to the development and the London Assembly environment committee warned of the unacceptable light levels that would be made by the venue.

Despite concerns raised back in 2019, the MSG Sphere was still approved by planning authorities at the London Legacy Development Corporation in March 2022.

Back in February though, MP Michael Gove temporarily paused planning progress by issuing an Article 31 holding directive – which temporarily blocked the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and the Mayor of London from signing off proposals for the venue.

Sadiq Khan’s objection to the construction of the MSG Sphere in Stratford also follows recent news that the Las Vegas equivalent, which opened at the end of September, had lost $98.4million (£80.5million) since opening.

The multi-billion dollar venue, operated by the company that owns Madison Square Garden, opened on September 29 with a residency performed by U2. The company reported revenues of $118million, but it is down 71 per cent from a year ago, according to The New York Post.

Following the launch of the Nevada venue, NME gave U2 a glistening five-star review for their opening night at the site – praising them for creating an atmosphere that “truly takes your breath away”.

Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Bram van den Berg of U2 perform during U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere on September 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Bram van den Berg of U2 perform during U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere on September 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CREDIT: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

It was also shared last month that Bono and co. were to extend their residency at the new Sphere venue in Las Vegas, adding an extra 11 dates to the run.

Originally, the residency was scheduled to run until December 16, however, more dates were confirmed meaning that the shows will now run into the new year.

It remains unclear who will play at the new site once their run of shows draws to a close, however, in recent months speculation has been rife.

Back in August, the New York Post also reported that MSG boss James Dolan was “locking in” The Eagles as the next band to take over from U2, and that the venue would play host to a farewell tour for the band. However, given the reported extra U2 dates, it seems that those negotiations are still ongoing.

Frontman Paul Stanley also confirmed that KISS will not be playing at the venue as part of a residency once their ongoing farewell tour draws to an end, and current rumours suggest that Beyoncé may be the next to appear at the Sphere.

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