London [not] Calling
Note: This piece has been updated to include a statement from Sphere Entertainment.
Update: Sphere Entertainment has issued a statement on the matter. “While we are disappointed in London's decision, there are many forward-thinking cities that are eager to bring this technology to their communities. We will concentrate on those,” the Sphere Entertainment spokesperson said.
Mark Kleinman of Sky News City initially reported that Sadiq Khan, May of London, decided to block an application by Madison Square Garden to make a Sphere in the city. They had hoped to build one at the Olympic Park in Stratford.
Revealed: Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has decided to block an application from Madison Square Garden to build a London version of the Las Vegas Sphere at the Olympic Park in Stratford on the grounds of excessive light pollution. A formal statement is expected later today.
— Mark Kleinman (@MarkKleinmanSky) November 20, 2023
The decision isn't final. “London is open to investment from around the world and Sadiq wants to see more world-class, ambitious, innovative entertainment venues in our city,” a spokesperson for the mayor said (via the Standard). “But as part of looking at the planning application for the MSG Sphere, the Mayor has seen independent evidence that shows the current proposals would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents.”
Madison Square Garden's inaugural Sphere opened in Las Vegas in September. The high-tech, 18,600-seat venue features a wraparound 16K resolution screen that displays unreal visuals. Concerts can be played at the venue, as well as films. Darren Aronofsky released a docu-film, Postcard from Earth, exclusively for the Sphere.
U2 is currently playing a residency at the Sphere. Their shows see the Irish rock band play their 1991 album, Achtung Baby, in full for the first time. The first (of 36, at the time of this writing) show took place on September 29.
It was a hefty investment, as Madison Square Garden paid a whopping $2.3 billion for the construction of the venue. The venue also took four years to make. Perhaps a London Sphere will eventually get off the ground. But for now, it doesn't appear to be in the cards.