The bright lights of Las Vegas could soon arrive in London with plans for an MSG Sphere concert venue.
Casino gambling hub Las Vegas is the home of the glitz and the glamor in the US; so much so that tourist destinations across the world can take a lot of inspiration from it. In full Vegas style, Macau now has a $2bn Londoner hotel featuring a Big Ben reconstruction, while Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands offers a light and water show to rival the Bellagio.
Now, London is also looking to get in on the action. The UK capital saw 16.1 million visits from overseas tourists in 2022, nothing on the 38.8 million drawn to the bright lights of Las Vegas in the same period.
planning is underway for a concert venue much more aligned with the flamboyant style of Las Vegas
While London has plenty of retail casinos to choose from, the biggest draw lies in its cultural and historic attractions. But planning is underway for a concert venue much more aligned with the flamboyant style of Las Vegas. The MSG Sphere was lit up for the first time to celebrate the Fourth of July in the US gambling capital, and it’s truly a sight to behold:
The UK now has plans to follow in Las Vegas’ footsteps and create a similar concert venue in Stratford, London. While its backers have argued the project will provide a boost to tourism figures, opponents to the project have argued that the billions of pounds it would take to construct the Sphere would be better spent elsewhere.
An ambitious plan
According to the plans backed by Madison Square Garden Entertainment, London’s Olympic coach park close to Stratford station would become the home of the city’s version of the Las Vegas Sphere. The ball-shaped LED screen-coated construct would house a 21,500-seater arena and a 1,500-capacity nightclub. No prospective opening date for the Sphere has been given.
delivering something for everyone”
Commenting on the official page of the project, MSG said the London Sphere will “attract a wide variety of artists and content,” while also “delivering something for everyone,” including “concerts, residencies, immersive experiences, family shows, corporate events, award shows, product launches, and select sporting events.”
The company even secured TV and radio presenter Maya Jama to reveal the “ground-breaking” plans in a YouTube video:
As for the cost, this isn’t clear exactly. Initially, the cost set out for the Las Vegas MSG Sphere was $1.2bn in 2018 when the project began. However, this soon ballooned past $2bn and ultimately reached $2.3bn by the time the 54,000-square-metre LED screen first lit up the skyline. As London’s version will be the same size, it can be anticipated that the costs should amount to a similar total.
The arguments against
As with every major project in a densely populated area, MSG London has its fair share of opponents. In fact, there are now multiple petitions underway aiming to prevent the project. One, simply titled Stop MSG Sphere, provides the emails of both London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Secretary of State for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove, urging people to voice their discontent to the politicians directly.
City Hall politicians have also urged Sadiq Khan to refuse the planning permission for the controversial arena. Members of the London Assembly’s environment committee warn that the Sphere will have a negative impact on wildlife in the area by producing disturbing light levels. Five of the seven committee members supported this recommendation.
the wrong development, in the wrong location”
The opposition doesn’t stop there though. Newham Council and Greenwich Council both filed an objection too, the latter arguing that the Sphere will impact local transport networks. Predictably, the operator of the nearby O2 arena, AEG Europe, also spoke out, deeming the project “the wrong development, in the wrong location.”
Posts on Twitter are similarly scathing regarding the project. Complaints from users range from the distraction caused to car and train drivers to the impact on the climate crisis. One group with 848 followers called Stop MSG Sphere London warned of a “noise nightmare” and has provided template emails to send to Khan and Gove:
Who wants to win?
While there are plenty of voices of disapproval in the MSG Sphere London debate, there are just as many who support the idea. After all, Las Vegas is the king of tourism in the US, if not the world. If London wants to attract more visitors, many believe the city needs to try to embrace a little more Las Vegas-style flamboyance.
an awe-inspiring spectacle”
Twitter is also full of admiration for Las Vegas’ MSG Sphere despite the high price tag. For instance, one post with more than 400 likes referred to the project as “an awe-inspiring spectacle,” while another said that the Sphere launch had made it “an unforgettable Independence Day” for anyone watching on.
There is also plenty of excitement for the shows that will take place within the Las Vegas Sphere, namely U2’s residency that will begin in September and run all the way to mid-December. Nearly half of their dates are already almost sold out, and the band added a further eight shows onto their original schedule due to high demand:
With all this in mind, it is difficult to imagine that the London government will heed the cries of Twitter groups and local councils by axing their plans. This is especially unlikely given the state of the nation’s finances at this time, which are Currently at great risk according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. The national debt is estimated to grow 100% by the year 2070, and tourism is one avenue to combat this.
Sadiq Khan is still yet to provide final approval for the plans, so there is some hope for opponents. However, it really seems that the people of Stratford may have to embrace their inner Elvis Presley and get more accustomed to a little dose of Las Vegas in London.