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Planning drawing for a new dome shaped music venue
Image: MSG Entertainment

What is Stratford’s MSG Sphere and when will it open?

A huge planet-shaped music venue has been given planning approval

Chiara Wilkinson
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Chiara Wilkinson
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We’ve only just all got over the Marble Arch Mound. Is it now time for the Stratford Sphere?

There’s been chat since 2019 about plans to build a huge new music destination called the Madison Square Garden Sphere in east London. Now, at a planning committee meeting that took place on March 22, proposals for the project were approved by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). That means that the development is one step closer to actually being built – though without approval from the Mayor of London, nothing is concrete.

The venue would be bigger than the O2, resemble a humongous, flickering globe, and turn a former lorry park into the highest-capacity indoor entertainment venue in the country. But what would it look like, and will it actually happen? Here is all we know. 

What would it look like?

Basically, it would be a colossal, lit-up orb. This bad boy would be a permanent fixture on the London skyline, next to that strange Olympic Park observation tower that looks like a toddler-drawn rollercoaster. Apparently, there would be all sorts of fancy tech inside, including an infrasound haptic system and the ‘largest and highest resolution screen on earth’, to give guests a good ol’ immersive experience.  

That all sounds pretty impressive. But for nearby Stratford residents, the venue could also bring large crowds and potentially increased traffic and station overcrowding.

Who wants to build it? 

It’s the brainchild of the US-based Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), which runs a famous live music venue in Manhattan, New York. It has also planned a similar spherical venue in Vegas, scheduled to open in the second half of 2023 – also called MSG Sphere. So the London one won’t actually be unique.  

Inside the stratford sphere
Image: MSG Entertainment

Where would it be? 

Plonked on top of a former lorry park, right next to Westfield Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the borough of Newham. The site used to be publicly owned by London & Continental Railways, before it was sold to Westfield after the Olympics and later to MSG in 2017.

If the sphere goes ahead, the infrastructure of the surrounding area will also change quite a bit: we’re talking new cycle lanes, new entrances at Stratford station, and more roads. 

What else does it promise? 

The venue won’t be built using public money and has the potential to inject a lot of dollar into the local area. A spokesperson from MSG Entertainment claimed that the orb would ‘support thousands of good jobs and bring £2.5 billion to the London economy in its first 20 years of operation.’ 

However, a petition calling for the project to be scrapped was signed by more than 2,000 people, and more than 1,000 local residents have formally objected to the planning application.

When will it be built? 

Now that the LLDC has approved the planning application, the next steps will be a review from the Mayor of London and a legal planning agreement. Once (and if) both of these are completed to grant permission for the sphere to go ahead, we’ll have a better idea about when the building works will start. But for now, it’s still a bit of a waiting game. 

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