A massive spherical entertainment arena in Stratford is in the offing — and not everyone's bowled over by the prospect.
We've previously reported on the proposed MSG Sphere London — the globular brainchild of The Madison Square Garden Company, which would blaze out adverts from thousands of LED screens for up to 25 years — but right now it's back in the headlines, as its identical sibling has just opened in Las Vegas, with Irish rock band U2 making it a temporary home.
The Edge has even called it "a canvas of unparalleled scale", and it's exactly that which lots of people are worried about re. Stratford's iteration of the Sphere. While it's all well and good plopping a 300-foot-tall crystal ball in the middle of Vegas (that's the kind of stunt the city was made for, after all) is it really apt for a residential district of east London?
Imagine having this 50m outside your window. That's what residents in #Stratford will have to deal with unless @SadiqKhan and/or @michaelgove stop the #MSGSphere from being built. Please email them asking them to do just that. Templates on our website. https://t.co/ATG9kdr0Md https://t.co/HGciSsIJfB— Stop MSG Sphere London (@StopMSGSphere) July 8, 2023
Plenty don't think so. Among those opposed to the plans for the 21,500 seater arena are east London MPs and residents, TfL, Network Rail and Historic England. They feel that having this over-inflated football on their patch would be a breach in planning policy, that it'll take up valuable affordable housing space, steal trade from local businesses, cause congestion at Stratford station, dazzle locals and tube drivers with its bright LED advertising screens, and subject them to months-long renditions of 'Beautiful Day'. (We might've made the last one up.) A Stop MSG Sphere London group has launched a petition against the £800 million sphere, while Green Party Deputy Leader of England and Wales, Zack Polanski said: "People in hotel rooms in Vegas... only have to put up with it for a day or two but the fact that would become your daily life feels inhumane."
And to that, the developers say... well they basically say everything will be fiiiine. The venue, they claim, will 'pioneer the next generation of immersive experiences', not to mention create thousands of jobs. Also, they're happy to give residents free blackout blinds. Which is a bit like installing a giant shower head above people's houses and offering them free sandbags, but hey.
The Stratford Sphere still isn't going ahead for sure. While it's been given the green light by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, still has to give final approval (and remember, he did nix that controversial 'Tulip' skyscraper) as does Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. A lot of east Londoners are going to be praying one of them will stop this huge ball from rolling towards their homes.