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MSG submits plans for 21,500-cap. Sphere London

More details have emerged about Madison Square Garden Company's future-facing arena complex, which will occupy a 4.7ac site in Stratford

By Jon Chapple on 27 Mar 2019

A new rendering showing the Angel Lane entrance to the Sphere

A new rendering showing the Angel Lane entrance to the Sphere

The Madison Square Garden Company today (27 March) announced it has submitted a planning application to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) for its new music and entertainment venue, MSG Sphere.

Sphere, the US venue giant’s first international property, located in Stratford, east London, was first announced last February, with industry figures invited to explore the arena’s technological innovations – including a fully programmable exterior comprising a ‘skin’ of LED displays, and an interior featuring the largest, highest-resolution media display on the planet and an adaptive sound system that targets individual seats – the following month.

Among other things, the mammoth 244-page planning application reveals MSG Sphere would:

  • Sit on a 4.7-acre site used as a temporary coach park during the London 2012 Olympic games (pictured below)
  • Have a diameter of 120 metres and, at its highest point, would be 90m (295 feet) tall
  • Have a seated capacity of up to 17,500, or 21,500 for mixed seated/standing
  • Include a smaller venue/nightclub, shops, a café, restaurants and several publicly accessible outdoor spaces, including parks and an outdoor gym

MSG Sphere site, Stratford

While that headline figure of 21,500 bests the official capacity of the O2 – the nearby east London arena operated by MSG rival AEG, which has expressed concerns over the Sphere’s location – by 1,500, IQ understands the Sphere and the O2 would, in practice, have a similar capacity, with 21,500 being the Sphere’s absolute licensable capacity in particular configurations.

MSG says Sphere’s “powerful platform” – in addition to breaking new ground in video and audio, the venue will feature a haptic flooring system that conveys bass through the floor, and 25mbps wireless internet for all guests – would attract a wide variety of content, including concerts, residencies, family shows, corporate events, award ceremonies, product launches and sporting events.

‘Everyone will have the best seat in the house’: MSG takes wraps off Sphere London

These events would be scheduled to run outside rush hour, “to ensure a better travel experience to and from the venue”, while MSG Sphere events that coincide with other shows at surrounding venues (London Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) or busy periods at the Westfield shopping centre would be subject to a combined events plan and crowd management strategy agreed with the venues or Westfield.

Jayne McGivern, MSG’s executive vice-president of development and construction, says: “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. Our plans make training and local hiring a priority, and would create a premier destination that serves as a long-term investment in the future of Newham, London and the UK.”

Analysis from economic consultancies EY and Volterra, commissioned by MSG, shows that, if approved, MSG Sphere would support up to 3,200 jobs each year across the UK after it opens and up to 4,300 jobs annually during the three-year construction period.

“MSG Sphere will complement London’s existing venues and drive overall growth in the music and entertainment market”

EY also estimates that, once open, MSG Sphere would generate £2.7 billion in positive UK economic impact (gross value added) over a 20-year period, £2.5bn of it in London. This includes more than £50m in revenue every year for local businesses in the venue’s local authority, Newham.

It is unclear whether AEG will appeal the planning application, although a spokesperson says it will be “scrutinising [it] very carefully”. “It is imperative that Madison Square Garden’s proposals do not add to congestion in the area, especially on the Jubilee line, which is critical for the movement of guests to and from the O2 arena,” they continue.

“AEG always strives to ensure that its guests have the best possible experience when they visit our venues and we will work with local stakeholders to scrutinise the application in detail and ensure MSG’s plans do not affect this.”

“If our plans are approved,” concludes MSG’s McGivern, “we believe MSG Sphere will complement London’s existing venues and drive overall growth in the music and entertainment market, benefiting residents, artists and fans.”

“We welcome any project that brings jobs and economic growth to east London”

Responding to MSG’s application for planning permission, Gareth Bacon AM, chairman of London Assembly’s budget and performance committee, says: “This venue would be a very welcome boost to the local area economically. It will also give a helping hand to LLDC’s finances.

“It’s great to hear that almost seven years on, the Olympic legacy is still alive. The creation of jobs for Londoners, especially those in the Newham area, is an important part of this. East London is already known to be a hub for creatives, so plans for a venue like this should sit nicely with the existing cultural fabric of the area.

“We will be watching the LLDC closely to ensure that this proposal is the right one for the area, but we welcome any project that brings jobs and economic growth to east London.”



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