By now, you’ve probably seen the countless videos of U2’s insane opening concert at the Las Vegas Sphere, aka the venue set to transform live entertainment as we know it. What you probably didn’t already know, however, is that the $2.3 billion (£1.9 billion) venue is supposed to be getting a replica in Stratford, East London.
The reason no one heard of it in the UK? It’s facing pushback from local residents who say the black-out blinds they have been offered by developers will not make up for the light pollution and nuisance. We can’t really blame them, to be honest.
The giant sphere that towers over the Las Vegas skyline and beams out ultra-bright images—one big eye, a basketball, the moon, you name it—through a skin of thousands of LED screens is distracting, to say the least.
Following his band’s performance, Bono called the inventor of the Sphere, US mogul James Dolan, a “mad bastard” as 16,000 seamlessly connected screens projected vast desert and extraterrestrial landscapes, swirling animals and kaleidoscopic portals to an understandably mind-blown crowd.
Every single part of the building is wired for sound, with patented technology that can beam pinpoint focussed waves of sound through 167,000 speakers wherever they want in the venue, delivering what critics say is “crystal clear headphone standard audio to every audience member.”
At the same width as the London Eye (120 metres) and rivalling the height of Big Ben (96 metres), the planned arena in London can house 21,500 visitors. The venue, which maker MSG says can host concerts, awards ceremonies, boxing matches and gaming events, was given planning permission in 2022.
That being said, it’s currently still awaiting sign off from London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up. According to The Telegraph, MSG has also been given the green light to broadcast adverts around the dome’s facade for the next 25 years.
As awesome as the clips for Las Vegas’ own Sphere look, this East London replica is an unappealing prospect for campaigners from the grassroots group Stop MSG Sphere London. Lindesay Mace, a 44-year-old charity worker and group spokesman, said they were prepared to “fight against it till the last.”
She went on to add: “The fact that where we are now, on the permission being granted, is a travesty of justice. The sphere is designed for Vegas, the city of lights. It is not designed for a small site that is surrounded by three blocks of residential properties.”
Dolan, who built Madison Square Gardens in New York City and whose MSG company owns the basketball team the New York Knicks, is said to have first conceived of the concept of the Sphere seven years ago with a crude sketch showing a stick person stuck inside a circle.