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MSG boss in ‘serious talks’ over second Sphere

James Dolan is reportedly in discussions with Abu Dhabi investors about building a Sphere venue in the UAE capital

By James Hanley on 12 Dec 2023

Sphere Las Vegas

image © Sphere Entertainment

Madison Square Garden (MSG) boss James Dolan is reported to be in “serious talks” to build a second Sphere venue – this time in the United Arab Emirates.

According to the New York Post, Dolan is in discussions with Abu Dhabi investors about building a replica of the $2.3 billion, 20,000-cap Las Vegas Sphere, which would become MSG’s first property outside of the US.

“These are serious talks with Abu Dhabi. They keep going back and forth,” a source told The Post.

A Sphere spokesperson declined to comment on the report, which noted that the UAE capital has emerged as a frontrunner after negotiations apparently stalled with Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

The UAE’s second most populous city after Dubai, Abu Dhabi gained the 18,000-cap Etihad Arena in 2021, which has upcoming shows with the likes of Andre Rieu and Scorpions.

Wireless Festival, meanwhile, attracted 25,000 fans to Etihad Park on Yas Island for its Abu Dhabi debut in March, while November’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s Yasalam After-Race Concerts starred Foo Fighters, Shania Twain, Tiësto, Chris Brown and Ava Max.

The brainchild of Dolan, the futuristic Sphere features a 160,000 sq. foot LED display inside the main venue, which wraps up, over and around the audience for a fully immersive experience in cutting-edge 16K x 16K resolution. The concept launched in Las Vegas at the end of September with the 40-night U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere residency, which runs until March 2024.

American rock band Phish are the next major act to be confirmed and will deliver a four-show run from 18-21 April, while the Post reported last month that Beyoncé was in talks over a potential residency, with Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga also rumoured to be in consideration.

Sphere Entertainment said it was focusing on the “many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities”

Speaking to Variety earlier this year, MSG executive chair and CEO Dolan said it was “definitely a big part of the business plan, to build more Spheres all over the world”. “And by the way, different-size ones too – probably not much bigger than the one in Vegas, but we’ve actually gone through already architectural drawings and designs for smaller Spheres for smaller markets,” he added.

However, Sphere Entertainment said last month that it was focusing on the “many forward-thinking cities… eager to bring this technology to their communities” after its long-held plans for a 21,500-cap London spin-off were refused.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan rejected the proposals on the basis they “would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents”, but levelling-up secretary Michael Gove has since ordered a six-week pause as he considers whether to call in the application for the development.

In a broadside at Khan, a Sphere spokesperson alleged “the entire five-year planning process was hijacked by the Mayor and his bogus last-minute report”.

“Londoners should be dismayed that they are not going to benefit from this groundbreaking project, and others looking to invest in London should certainly be wary,” continued the statement. “Moreso, everyone should be alarmed by how easily the government’s established process was tossed aside by one politically motivated official.

“Mr Gove’s action, although commendable, still appears to us to be more of the same, and we cannot continue to participate in a process that can be so easily undermined by political winds. As we said previously, we will focus on the many forward-thinking cities.”


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