Sphere Vegas: What is the Las Vegas Sphere, and will the London venue be similar?

The Sphere in Las Vegas opened on September 29, since when it has hosted a series of gigs by U2.
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Casinos, nightclubs and, since the end of September, the Sphere. Las Vegas, a city known for its excesses, became home to a gigantic, LED-laden globe-shaped venue nearly two months ago. Plans are progressing to construct a similar space in east London, the proposals for which are currently sat on mayor Sadiq Khan’s desk. But what is the giant Sphere in the desert?

Located east of the Las Vegas strip, the Sphere was first announced in 2018, and opened on September 29. Billed as the world’s largest spherical structure, it stands at 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide, and has a capacity of around 18,000 people. In short, it is absolutely massive.

Both the Sphere and the MSG Sphere London were designed by the same architecture firm, Populous, which has worked on projects including FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl venues.

The Sphere in Las Vegas. Credit: Lexi Dewing.The Sphere in Las Vegas. Credit: Lexi Dewing.
The Sphere in Las Vegas. Credit: Lexi Dewing.

Since it opened, the Sphere has been hosting Irish rock superstars U2 and their ‘U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere’ residency. Running until mid-December, the gig revolves around the band’s iconic 1991 album Achtung Baby, with footage online showing the immersive spectacle which is the Sphere’s first serious outing.

U2 guitarist The Edge said in an Apple Music video prior to the Sphere opening: “There’s nothing like it. It’s light years ahead of everything that’s out there.”

The 1.2 million LEDs covering the venue’s exterior meanwhile can be used to showcase a range of dynamic imagery, from advertising to more playful content. One particularly terrifying video online even shows a huge human eye being projected from the Sphere.

While it will in many ways be very similar to the Las Vegas iteration, if the east London version does go ahead, there will be several key differences worth noting.

For one, it will not be as bright. It will also not operating 24/7, with the MSG Sphere group saying mitigations will be in-place for local residents concerned about light pollution. The London venue will also be able to cater for more people, with a capacity of 21,500, plus a nightclub, restaurants and other spaces.

What stage is the MSG Sphere London at?

The application is currently sat with Mr Khan, who is expected to announce a decision by November 20. Approval is also likely still required from the government, after an Article 31 Direction issued in February means final permission cannot be granted until housing and communities secretary Michael Gove has decided whether the plans need to be “called in” for additional scrutiny. 

The plans have raised major concerns from certain groups, including residents, largely due to the expected light pollution and potential impact on transport.

On its website, which at the time of writing appears to have been taken down, MSG Sphere wrote it is “very conscious” of its neighbours, and has taken several steps to mitigate its effects, such as "establishing set operating hours and luminance levels for the venue’s external lighting”.

It also plans on investing in a new entrance and ticket hall plus a host of other improvements to Stratford station.

LondonWorld has approached MSG Sphere for comment on the apparent removal of its London website.