Architecture & Real Estate | August 2, 2021 2:44 pm

Madison Square Garden Wants to Build a Giant, Glowing Concert Orb in London

London's proposed 21,500-seat "Sphere" would broadcast advertisements on its exterior for half the day

Exterior of London's proposed MSG Sphere venue, which will show videos and advertisements on its exterior
The proposed MSG Sphere venue is going before a planning commission in September
MSG Sphere London / Screenshot

I have hometown bias, so I believe Madison Square Garden is a great venue. And plans for a MSG “Sphere” in London certainly seem interesting, but as The Guardian notes, the venue’s unique design comes with several drawbacks, including advertisements that run on the roof outside for several hours of the day (and night).

This is how Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. describes the 21,500-seat Sphere, a design concept set to be heard by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) planning committee in late September: “[MSG Entertainment] wants to transform an undeveloped site in the heart of Stratford, East London, into MSG Sphere – a state-of-the-art music and entertainment venue that will pioneer the next generation of immersive experiences, and create unforgettable moments for fans from the UK and around the world.”

However, for all the Sphere’s seemingly cool innovations (biggest hi-res screen in the world, haptic sound system that creates vibrating floors, being as tall as Big Ben, etc.), the sticking point seems to be the building’s exterior, a five-acre spherical TV screen that’ll be on for many hours of the day and night and feature advertisements. And those powerful LED screens will be shining right into people’s homes.

“Our friends have joked that it will at least reduce our electricity bills,” as Stratford resident Ceren Sonmez tells The Guardian. “We’ll never have to switch the lights on, day or night.” The proposed venue is also right next to the 60,000-seat London Stadium, and the nearby Stratford train station has seen incidents of serious overcrowding. Additionally, plans for the arena seem to have been kept somewhat in secret until recently, as the LLDC and MSG held multiple discussions in un-minuted meetings.

The group Stop MSG Sphere says they are “terrified” by the project citing noise and light pollution, unmanageable overcrowding and transport chaos, while also noting the site is “as close as 250 feet to residential properties and is surrounded by densely residential buildings on all 3 sides.”

MSG, for its part, claims 85% of local residents approve of the Sphere and touts the economic and job benefits of the venue.

A better location for the Sphere might be Las Vegas; no surprise, MSG is also building a Sphere there that’s set to open in 2023.

Concert promoter AEG created this anti-Sphere video to showcase the venue’s constant illumination