The troubled Millennium Dome is to be resurrected with a new name and re-positioned as London's biggest indoor live-music destination. Following a deal unveiled today (May 25) between U.S.-based Ansch

The troubled Millennium Dome is to be resurrected with a new name and re-positioned as London's biggest indoor live-music destination.

Following a deal unveiled today (May 25) between U.S.-based Anschutz Entertainment Group and British wireless operator O2, the venue will be converted into a 23,000-capacity music, entertainment and sports arena. Due to re-open in 2007 as "the O2," the venue will also house a 2,000-capacity club.

Tim Leiweke, president/CEO of AEG, compares the 02 project with another high-profile venture, AEG's Staples Center in Los Angeles. "Like Staples Center, this is a public private development," Leiweke tells Billboard.biz. "We're spending a half billion pounds on the development of the arena and the entertainment district, so we need that economic model like Staples Center that is about naming rights, founding partners and suites. The most important deal is naming, and this is the largest naming rights deal ever done."

Worth $11.3 million per year—cash—U.S., the deal is touted as the largest ever of its kind.

The venue's capacity will surpass that of rival 18,500-seater Earl's Court and the 11,500-seater Wembley Arena, which is currently being refurbished for a 2006 re-opening.

AEG and O2 will also jointly develop mobile content such as music downloads based on concerts filmed at the new venue.

Future initiatives targeted at O2 customers include developing mobile ticketing for "the O2" events, and handset-accessible event guides.

O2 recently boosted its music profile with its headline sponsorship of the multi-stage Wireless Festival, which will be held at London's Hyde Park during the last month of June. The telecoms giant claims a database of 14 million U.K. customers.

The Dome, in the Greenwich area of London, was launched as an amusement center in January 2000 to celebrate the Millennium. It turned into a loss-making fiasco that has cost British taxpayers more than £800 million ($1.16 billion). The British government in May 2002 handed AEG responsibility for developing and operating the site.

Corporate sponsorship—particularly at this level—is a fresh concept to the UK and Europe.

"Not only is this is the first significant naming rights deal, maybe ever, in Europe, the British culture is absolutely swayed and skeptical because of the Millennium Dome experience. So we had two strikes going against us from day one," Leiweke explains. "To find a company like [O2] that 'got it' we were really lucky."

The O2 project is the latest for the increasingly international AEG, which owns or operates such franchises as the NBA's Lakers and NHL Kings in L.A., the Staples Center, along with several medium-sized stadium and theater projects in markets ranging from Chicago to New York to Texas and, more than ever, London.

AEG Live, AEG's concert promotion division, is second only to Clear Channel Entertainment in terms of grosses, reporting $342 million in grosses to Billboard Boxscore last year from such tours as Prince, the Eagles, and Usher.

"You can pretty well figure out what we're up to," says Leiweke. "L.A., New York, London, capital markets, the best facilities in the world. No matter what happens to Clear Channel [Entertainment], the reality for us is to be an important part of live entertainment we are going to put a lot of time, money, and resources into New York, L.A., London, Berlin, and soon, Asia."


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