London Sphere last gasp at ‘political’ altar


The Sphere in London is dead Image: The Madison Square Garden Company

The US company behind a proposed huge Las Vegas-style Sphere entertainment venue in East London (UK) has withdrawn its plans.

‘The Guardian’ stated that the Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) said it could not continue to participate in a process that was “merely a political football between rival parties”.

The Las Vegas-style Sphere, also known as the ‘Crystal Ball’, was a proposed 300-foot-high entertainment venue in Stratford, East London (UK). The venue would have been covered with light-emitting diode (LED) lights, and would have featured the world’s highest-resolution LED screen. It would have also had immersive sound systems to host concerts, shows and sporting events.

The MSG had planned to build a 90m-high structure on the two-hectare site on the edge of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The 62,500-capacity Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a sporting complex and public park in Stratford, Hackney Wick, Leyton and Bow, in East London (UK). It was purpose-built for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, situated adjacent to the Stratford City development.

The Sphere is a music and entertainment arena in Paradise, Nevada, United States, East of the Las Vegas Strip. Designed by Populous, the spherical project was announced by the Madison Square Garden Company in 2018, known then as the MSG Sphere. It went on stream on September 29th, 2023. The Sphere is a $2.3 billion, 366-foot-tall, 516-foot-wide entertainment arena. It’s connected to the Venetian resort complex and hosts concerts, award shows, cinema, and sporting events.

The Sphere is the world’s largest spherical building and has the world’s largest LED screen. It has 10,000 immersive seats and standing room for 20,000 people. The venue also has 168,000 square feet of high definition LEDs, 167,000 speakers and the world’s largest beamforming audio system.

The Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corporation is an American entertainment holding company based in New York City. The company was established in 2020 when The Madison Square Garden Company spun off its non-sports assets as an independent, publicly-traded company.

‘The Guardian’ further stated that in a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, seen by PA Media, the MSG said it was “extremely disappointing” that the Londoners would “not benefit from the Sphere’s groundbreaking technology and the thousands of well-paying jobs it would have created”.

In December 2023, the Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, used his powers to call in and review the rejection of planning permission by the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for the 21,000-capacity, 300ft-tall structure in Stratford, East London.

However, the Sphere Entertainment, a sister firm to MSG, said it had written to Gove advising him of the company’s plan to withdraw its application and to decline to participate in the call-in process.

New York (US)-based the Sphere Entertainment Company is a media and live entertainment company that offers a next-generation entertainment medium. The company also provides MSG networks and sports, a companion streaming service and other programing.

A spokesperson for the company added it was committed to working with “forward-thinking Cities around the world” who were “serious” about bringing the project to their communities.

The MSG’s letter to the Planning Inspectorate read, “On behalf of both the Stratford Garden Development Limited and Sphere Entertainment, I write to confirm that we are officially withdrawing our application from the Planning Inspectorate process. After spending millions of pounds acquiring our site in Stratford and collaboratively engaging in a five-year planning process with numerous Governmental bodies, including the local planning authority that approved our plans following careful review, we cannot continue to participate in a process that is merely a political football between rival parties.”

The Stratford Garden Development Limited is a company that develops building projects and is based in London (UK). The company was incorporated in 2017 and is in the construction and property business.

The MSG had wanted to build its Sphere venue in Stratford, with plans to illuminate it on the outside and have the world’s highest-resolution LED screen, along with immersive sound systems to host concerts, shows and sporting events.

The 4.7-acre site was bought by the firm having been left empty since it was last used as a temporary coach park during the 2012 London Olympics. Mayor Khan ruled in November that the Sphere, following New York-based firm MSG’s planning application to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), would not be allowed to be built.

London (UK)-based the London Legacy Development Corporation is an organization established in 2012, replacing the Olympic Park Legacy Company and the planning powers of the Olympic Delivery Authority. It was formed as a Mayoral development corporation under the powers of the Localism Act 2011.

The Labour Mayor said the venue would cause “significant light intrusion resulting in significant harm to the outlook of the neighboring properties, detriment to human health and significant harm to the general amenity enjoyed by the residents of their own homes.”

The Mayor went on to say it would be “bulky” and “unduly dominant” and would not “constitute good and sustainable design”.

People living near the proposed development site had reportedly said they were “insulted” after the MSG allegedly offered blackout blinds as a way of mitigating the glow from the images emitting from the orb-like structure.

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