Madison Square Garden Entertainment’s ambitions to build what it calls a ‘large-scale, state-of-the-art, music and entertainment venue’ in London’s East End appears to have hit a major obstacle, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan blocking the plan, citing concerns about the project’s impact on local residents and its environmental credentials.
Khan’s decision, reported by The Standard on Tuesday (November 21), comes after a review of the planning application for the MSG Sphere. The proposed venue, which would have been a copy of the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, was designed to be a 21,500-capacity arena covered in LED panels and standing almost 300 feet tall.
Khan’s concerns include the Sphere’s LED panels that would have caused significant light pollution, disrupting the sleep patterns of Stratford residents; its energy consumption that would have been a major environmental concern; and its location, which could affect nearby heritage sites.
“London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city, a spokesperson for the mayor was quoted by The Standard as saying.
“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 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.”
Spokesperson for London Mayor Sadiq Khan
MSG Entertainment has since told The Standard that it’s abandoning its plans to build a sphere in London. It will sell the brownfield site it had purchased for the development, and will look to build in another country.
“This really is the end of the line for London,” The Standard quoted MSG Executive Chairman and CEO James Dolan as saying. “Why doesn’t London want the best show on earth?”
Dolan added: “We were totally taken aback by this… We thought the mayor was supportive. He gave no indication he was going to behave like this.”
“This really is the end of the line for London… Why doesn’t London want the best show on earth?”
James Dolan, MSG Entertainment
Khan’s decision was welcomed by AEG, which operates The O2, another major music venue in London.
“We welcome the Mayor of London’s decision to direct refusal of the Sphere’s planning application today. We do not oppose competition in the live entertainment industry, and specifically do not oppose another large music venue in London,” Alistair Wood, Executive Vice President of Real Estate & Development at AEG Europe, said in a press release.
“However, this proposal had fundamental flaws from the beginning. It was the wrong design, in the wrong location, and this was the right call.”
AEG had previously raised concerns about the Sphere’s impact on its own operations and on local residents. Back in November 2020, AEG Europe criticized what it described as “hopelessly inadequate” evidence for the MSG Sphere.
An AEG spokesperson wrote to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), claiming that “the Sphere would directly negatively impact the safe operation of The O2, and the health and wellbeing of local residents.”
“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.”
In response to Khan’s decision, a spokesperson for Sphere Entertainment, a unit of MSG Entertainment, 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.”
Sphere Entertainment has reportedly already been in talks with the South Korean city of Hanam to house a Sphere.
MSG first revealed its plan to build the MSG Sphere in Stratford in early 2018.
MSG Entertainment, which was spun off from the Madison Square Garden Company (now MSG Sports) in 2020, owns world-renowned venues including New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre and The Chicago Theatre.
Music Business Worldwide