London Sphere: MSG sees millions of investment dollars and years of planning go down the drain – youngvid

In September, thousands of spectators swarmed into the Las Vegas Sphere to watch U2 christen the $2.3 billion spectacle with a breathtaking performance supported by 1.2 million LED lights. 

Longstanding hopes from its US owners that it would soon get to launch a similar experience across the Atlantic have now been extinguished, as it watched millions of dollars of investment and years of planning in London go down the drain. 

Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) has officially scrapped plans to build a London version of the 364-feet high Vegas dome after conceding the project had become “a political football between rival parties.”

According to a letter to the U.K.’s Planning Inspectorate seen by Fortune, MSG’s spin-off group Sphere Entertainment said it was “extremely disappointing that Londoners will not benefit from the Sphere’s groundbreaking technology and the thousands of well-paying jobs it would have created”.

The Planning Inspectorate confirmed that the group had withdrawn its proposal to build the Sphere in Stratford.

‘Bogus last-minute report’

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is a member of the center-left Labour Party, rejected an application by MSG to build the 23,000-capacity arena in the east London town of Stratford late last year. 

The overbearing nature of the structure would have been “bulky” and “unduly dominant” while the bright lights emanating from the dome would have caused a significant risk to the health of nearby residents, the Mayor’s office said in its report rejecting planning permission.

Khan’s conclusion was challenged in December by housing secretary Michael Gove of the U.K.’s governing Conservative Party, the Labour Party’s main rival. 

However, MSG appears to have cut its losses before a review after spending millions of dollars acquiring a site in Stratford and engaging in a five-year planning process which had at one point gained approval.

A representative for a furious 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.”

In December, a spokesperson for the group told the Daily Mail its five-year planning process had been “hijacked by the Mayor and his bogus last-minute report.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London told Fortune the project would have had an “unacceptable negative impact on local residents,” particularly from substantial external lighting.

“London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city,” the spokesperson said.

A representative for the Department for Leveling Up declined to comment.

Sphere gets few fans in London

When the Sphere was launched in Las Vegas late last year, it was the perfect encapsulation of the Nevada city’s penchant for spectacle and exuberance. 

U2 christened the Las Vegas venue in September last year in front of a host of U.S. A-listers.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

U2’s opening night was attended by A-list celebrities including Oprah, LeBron James, and Matt Damon, helping the launch go viral across social media as the sphere shifted shapes and backgrounds during the Irish band’s two-hour set.

Its owners expect the project to be highly lucrative, with advertisers lining up to broadcast their products on the dome’s exterior to millions of people in the city and on social media, in addition to the jobs it’s expected to create in and around the venue.

However, the idea of a giant luminous sphere has received a lot more pushback in London, where architectural projects akin to those spanning Vegas are much rarer.

Indeed, residents living near the dome were fiercely opposed to the development of the gargantuan site.

A grassroots group called Stop MSG Sphere London led the charge against MSG and helped force the London Mayor’s rejection of the proposal.

Lindesay Mace, who led the campaign group, told the Telegraph: “The sphere is designed for Vegas, the city of lights. It is not designed for a small site that is surrounded with three blocks of residential properties.” 

Mace added that residents were “insulted” by MSG’s proposal to offer residents blackout blinds to reduce the impact of the massive LED monument.

Where next for the Sphere?

Sphere Entertainment is now expected to take its expansion plans elsewhere.

In December, the New York Post reported that MSG owner James Dolan was in “serious talks” over building a new Sphere in Abu Dhabi, citing a person familiar with the matter.

While hopes remain high in Vegas, there is yet to be any proof of the Sphere’s long-term profitability, based on the group’s latest earnings. 

The Sphere reported a $98.5 million operating loss in the three months to the end of September last year, according to SEC filings, just before it opened to the public. 

A week before the release of its financial results, the group announced that its chief financial officer, Gautam Ranji, would be resigning from the company. It said his resignation was independent of accounting issues.

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