A few years ago, we told you about plans to bring a new arena to London. Quickly dubbed ‘The Golf Ball’ – because apparently no building gets planning permission in London without a stupidly obvious nickname – it looked like an oddball addition to east London. A year later, the group behind the project released new images, and things begun to look even clearer. Crystal clear, in fact.
Yep, the new arena’s updated look resulted in a new nickname: ‘The Crystal Ball’. Its real name is the far less snappy MSG Sphere, named after the Madison Square Garden group that commissioned it. And, this week, news has broken that the controversial space, which has received criticism for the noise and light pollution it would cause, was yesterday (March 22) given the go ahead by the local authority’s planning committee, as reported by Construction News. This approval marks the passing of a major stage, and now the decision lies with Mayor Sadiq Khan.
If this final stage goes through, the sphere would roll into Stratford, settling in a prime spot between Olympic Park and Westfield. MSG are planning to build an identical pair of balls: London will be the second, as their Las Vegas ball will drop first.
All jokes aside, this venue would be an interesting addition to London’s concert venues. With a maximum capacity of 21,500, MSG Sphere would overtake Manchester Arena and the O2 to become the UK’s biggest concert arena. They’re aiming to host music acts, award shows, immersive experiences, as well as sports such as boxing, UFC, and e-sports. Designed by the same team that revolutionised Wembley Stadium, the 90-metre tall arena boasts some rather nifty features.
A revolutionary sound system designed by German outfit Holoplot promises that every audience member will experience the same audio quality, regardless of where they’re sat. The interior will boast the largest LED screen in the world, beaming images all over the arena – meanwhile, the spherical design and a host of triangular LED panels allow the exterior to show what’s happening too. No one has yet explained how that stops people watching events for free, but presumably the ball’s masters will find a way to handle it. Throw in high speed internet for every seat, and a concert here will be an experience quite like no other.
This is all hypothetical right now, as there is still that last stage to go. MSG are hoping the sweeteners of 4300 jobs per year during construction, and £2.5 billion of revenue for London over the first 20 years will grease the wheels to its eventual approval. If it’s given the final green light, building the MSG Sphere would take three years, and it is said the space would cover an area 50 times of that where the Piccadilly Circus advertising boards stand.
Officers at the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) have reportedly described the proposals as acceptable, despite over 1,000 objections from locals and a petition against it receiving 2,000 signatures.
LLDC officers said it “would provide an attractive visual backdrop for people living, working, enjoying recreational time, visiting and travelling through the metropolitan town centre.”
Newham Council is also against the scheme, though it doesn’t play a role in the proposals, other than having two councillors on the planning committee.
Also published on Medium.