Bad news for U2 fans: London won’t be getting a Sphere after all

The US developers said it will continue to work with “forward-thinking cities” who are “serious” about the Sphere, officially withdrawing its plans.

Date
10 January 2024

The developer behind the Sphere in Las Vegas has shelved plans to bring another Sphere to London, Stratford. Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) said it cannot continue to be a part of “political football between rival parties”, after London mayor Sadiq Khan refused planning permission in December and housing secretary Michael Gove attempted to reverse the decision before MSG withdrew plans.

MSG said it spent millions to acquire the Stratford site and a subsequent five years working with the UK government and local planning authorities, who had approved its plans.

The developer said it was “extremely disappointing” that London would not benefit from the Sphere’s technology and thousands of “well-paying jobs” in a letter to the Planning Inspectorate.

The Stratford Sphere was meant to be 300ft-tall – Big Ben is just under 315ft for reference – with a primary capacity of 21,500 in the main venue. It would function like the Sphere in Vegas, hosting immersive entertainment experiences, from music to sport and film.

Lobbyists foresaw a range of problems with the Sphere in Stratford. A group of residents in Newham started the campaign Stop MSG Sphere London, raising issues like overcrowding at Stratford’s already busy station, noise and light pollution and its residential location. It called for protestors to email both Sadiq Khan and Michael Gove saying: “It’s unacceptable that residents within 150m will have to use blackout blinds to mitigate the Sphere’s light pollution.”

A representative from Sphere told Fortune: “We are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with forward-thinking cities around the world who are serious about bringing this next-generation entertainment experience to their communities.”

Since November, the future of the Vegas Sphere hasn’t looked as bright as its $2.3 billion LED lights suggest. It reported a $98.4m loss after only a month of running its experiential events. Its billing included works by U2 and Darren Aronofsky.

Immersive experiences proliferated the art and entertainment world in 2023, but with costly projects like London’s Sphere failing to get off the ground, it’s unclear whether we will continue to see high-risk investments in this space.

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MSG Sphere, Las Vegas, 7 November 2023 (Copyright © suzyanne16 - stock.adobe.com, 2023)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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