Madison Square Garden Unveils Plans For 'Next-Generation' London Sphere Venue

MSG London
Courtesy of Madison Square Garden

MSG London

AEG pre-empt presentation by expressing concerns over location near its The O2 arena

The Madison Square Garden Company has unveiled further details about its forthcoming “revolutionary next generation” London venue, MSG’s first location outside of the United States.

Speaking to an invited audience of music industry execs at The Copper Box Arena in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park yesterday (March 20), executive chairman/CEO Jim Dolan said the MSG Sphere London will have a transformational impact on how entertainment venues are designed, as well as audience expectations of what concerts, films and live events can be in the near future.

“The environments and the stories told with this new medium will be impactful,” said Dolan, who, as per February’s Radio City Music Hall presentation in New York, read from Ray Bradbury’s short science fiction story The Veldt. “We’re just beginning to imagine where we’ll take our audiences,” Dolan added, saying that the venue will be designed to attract the “finest storytellers, artists and content creators across the globe.”

“We are building venues that will become the platform to the musicians, artists, storytellers and leaders of commerce," Dolan continued. "A platform that will connect thousands of attendees to the subject matter in a way that will resonate as never before.”

Designed by Populous, the same architecture firm behind the previously-announced MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, the 18,000-capacity venue will be based on a five-acre plot of land in Stratford, East London (see rendering above). MSG says it hopes to submit its planning application by the end of the year and, if the project is approved, says it will generate thousands of jobs and contribute £2.7 billion (appx. $3.79 billion) to the U.K. economy over a 20-year period.

Mirroring plans for the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, the state-of-the-art crystal-ball-style steel structure will boast a fully-programmable LED exterior and ultra-high definition 15,000 square-meter interior displays, which will be used to immerse audiences in spectacular multi-sensory environments, says the New York-based company, whose venue portfolio includes New York’s Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, the Forum in California and the Wang Theatre in Boston, among others.

As previously reported, MSG is developing its own video capture rig, utilizing 10 RED Weapon 8k cameras, to capture and live stitch together 360-degree footage, especially for its portfolio of Sphere venues, which MSG says will boast the largest and highest resolution media displays on Earth.

Its flagship international venue will also feature a holographic concierge that will guide guests throughout the arena using advanced speech and facial recognition and holographic technology.

When it comes to acoustics, MSG says the venue's modular beam-forming sound system will deliver crystal clear audio to every guest, no matter the size or format of event, while its infrasound haptic floor will enable guests to feel the music through bass vibrations. Attendees at the London presentation were invited to view mini-installations of the dome’s tech, including a 12m working model of the Sphere and VR demonstration.

In addition to music concerts, esports and corporate-branding events such as product launches were cited among the type of events ideally suited to the Sphere’s cutting-edge design. The project has been welcomed by London mayor Sadiq Khan as confirmation of “London’s position as a music powerhouse” -- but not everyone shares his enthusiasm.

Prior to MSG’s London unveiling, AEG issued a statement expressing concern that its location in East London -- close to two other large-sized venues (the London Stadium and Copper Box Arena), as well as its own The O2 arena (located around five miles away) -- would have a profound impact on the area’s transport network.

“AEG understands competition in the live music industry and does not oppose the principle of a new music venue in London,” an AEG spokesman said ahead of the event. “However, there is a question mark over whether such a venue should be located in East London, so close to existing venues,” the statement continued, adding it is “imperative that MSG’s proposals do not add to congestion in the area, especially on the [London Underground] Jubilee Line, which is critical for the movement of guests to and from The O2 arena.”

MSG, which bought the five-acre site for around £60 million (appx. $84 million), says such concerns are unfounded and the area’s strong transport links make it an ideal location. Furthermore, the Sphere’s ground-breaking properties will help grow London’s live music market, says MSG, by attracting new and different forms of content.