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Dome v Sphere: O2 owner hits out at Populous plans for giant arena


The owner of the O2 arena, formerly the Millennium Dome, has complained about proposals by Populous for a giant 90m-tall spherical arena in Stratford, east London

Responding to the recently submitted plans for a 21,500-capacity music and entertainment venue, AEG said it had concerns the sphere was too close to other arenas in the Olympic Park and, more specifically, its own 20,000-seat complex about 3km to the south. 

The globe-shaped structure is being backed by MSG Ventures, the firm behind New York’s Madison Square Garden arena, and has been earmarked for a 2ha former ‘inaccessible’ coach park next to the Westfield shopping centre.

The building, officially the MSG Sphere, is set to become the largest concert arena in the UK would have a diameter of 120m and be 90m at its highest point and could be ready to open in 2022.

But AEG has issued a formal statement saying it will be ‘scrutinising the application very carefully’ in particular the ‘concerns as to the detrimental impact of [the plans]’.

An AEG spokesperson said: ‘[There] is a question mark over whether such a venue should be located so close to existing venues at the Olympic Park – such as the London Stadium and Copper Box – as well as AEG’s own nearby venue, the O2 arena.

‘It is imperative that MSG’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.

‘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.’

Local residents have also raised their concerns and launched a petition entitled: Stop the MSG Sphere - Stratford needs social houses, not a sun-blocking events arena!

MSG is insisting there is capacity for a major new venue in the capital, and in particular in east London.

MSG’s executive vice president of development and construction Jayne McGivern said: ‘If our plans are approved, 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.’

In terms of transport capacity, MSG added: ‘’Stratford is one of the best-connected parts of London with the Central and Jubilee lines on the Underground, a London Overground station, multiple bus lines, and the scheduled opening of Crossrail. The MSG Sphere site has a Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) of 6b – the highest level – because of the site’s excellent access to multiple modes of public transportation.

‘To ensure a better travel experience to and from the venue, [we] would primarily schedule events to run at different times to peak rush hours.’

As well as the main spherical arena the project will also include a smaller nightclub, shops, a café and restaurants, an ‘urban square’, an outdoor gym and a ‘nature play space for children’.

The full planning application, which was lodged with the London Legacy Development Corporation, can be seen here.

Msg sphere london exterior

Msg sphere london exterior

Key features of the MSG Sphere

  • The largest and highest resolution LED screen in the world. The building would be wrapped in triangular LED panels
  • A diameter of 120m and a height of 90m
  • An adaptive acoustics system to deliver ‘crystal-clear audio to every guest, no matter the size or type of event’
  • A haptic flooring system conveying bass through the floor so that the audience can ‘feel’ the experience
  • A scalable capacity of up to 17,500 seated, or 21,500 when there is a mix of seated and standing
  • Wireless connectivity delivering 25 megabits per second for every guest, ‘enabling a broader range of content, greater interaction among guests, and more immersive entertainment experiences’ 

Readers' comments (2)

  • The last thing we need is another architect’s ego trip cluttering up the fine suburb that is Stratford, attracting riff raff from all over the world, spending their money, using our clapped out underground and competing with the wonderful O2?!! Don’t there have these illuminated spheres in France?

    Looks amazing, I want to live in the East End now it’s amazing! Wish I’d bought a few houses there in ‘86 when we started working for the LDDC. What’s wrong with you people, and well done Populous and Madison Sq!

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  • Looks fantastic and Stratford is a much better area to get to via public transport than the O2, as you have the Central Line, DLR, TFL rail and Jubilee Line running directly into the station there already.

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