AEG reiterates opposition to MSG Sphere project

AEG, operator of The O2 in London, has reiterated its opposition to the MSG Sphere arena project in the English capital ahead of a planning committee meeting next week.

MSG Entertainment, which operates the iconic Madison Square Garden arena in New York, is planning on building a new venue in London. A planning application for the project was first submitted to the London Legacy Development Corporation in March 2019.

MSG Sphere would be located in Stratford, East London, and would have a scalable capacity of up to 17,500 seated, or 21,500 when there is a mix of seated and standing. The latter, in theory, would be greater than the official capacity of The O2.

In November 2020, AEG called for the planning application for the MSG Sphere project to be withdrawn and resubmitted due to “significant concerns”. It came after amended plans for the project were entered, with MSG Entertainment stating at the time that all relevant risks had been identified and appropriate mitigations and controls proposed.

AEG has previously raised concerns over MSG Entertainment’s analysis of the transport impacts of the Sphere project. MSG Entertainment had said its submission represented the culmination of an extensive process that included consultation and detailed technical discussions with stakeholders, which led to Network Rail withdrawing its objection to the planning application.

Ahead of an LLDC planning committee meeting on March 22, AEG has repeated calls for the application to be rejected. While AEG insists that it does not oppose competition from another large venue in London, it believes that the location for the Sphere is not suitable given its proximity to The O2, London Stadium and the Copper Box.

AEG has said that crowds generated by the new venue would pose a “serious and dangerous impact” on local transport infrastructure. AEG has also argued that the “protracted application period” and the “drip feed of documentation” has made it “impossible” for residents and affected parties to access all relevant information.

AEG has also argued that the project may cause a health risk to local residents due to the effects of light and moving images on the exterior of the arena.

A spokesperson for AEG said: “We are calling on the LLDC to refuse MSG’s application for a new venue in Stratford and encourage the Mayor of London to formally oppose this project in order to protect Newham’s residents and existing businesses from this inappropriate development.

“MSG’s planning application is hopelessly inadequate and fails to address the issues arising out of its new London context and the specific constraints of the Stratford Site, breaching planning policy in several areas.

“The proposals would exacerbate congestion at the already overcrowded Stratford Station, and no additional train services are proposed to mitigate the impact on the Jubilee Line. It has been suggested that various further modelling and assessment be undertaken post-planning meaning that the full impact of the proposals is simply not known.”

The MSG Sphere project has previously received opposition from Labour MP for West Ham Lyn Brown, who tweeted last year: “This monstrous glowing orb makes a mockery of East London’s Olympic legacy.”

MSG Entertainment is also planning a similar Sphere arena project in the US city of Las Vegas.