The Sphere: the spherical building lights up Las Vegas

The world's largest spherical building is capable of of accommodating 18,600 people

A stage set up on the street, no advertising, a crowd of open-mouthed passersby. This is how U2, one of the world’s most famous bands, performed by surprise in Las Vegas, singing their new single “The Atomic City” last September 16th.

This choice fell on the City of Lights because here, on September29th, the Irish band is set to inaugurate The Spherethe world’s largest spherical building, located just steps away from the famous Las Vegas Strip.

The Sphere, height, length and capacity

Bono Vox’s voice will resonate in the large planetarium and will announce the latest achievement in architecture and engineering in terms of construction—a giant sphere capable of accommodating 18,600 people, with an outer surface of 54,000 square meters, entirely covered in LED displays. Since the completion of construction last July, these displays have impressed visitors and residents of the City of Lights with incredible projected videos, including the image of the Earth rotating on its axis.

Behind this new temple of entertainment, designed to host concerts, film screenings, and various events, is not only the adoption of the most innovative technologies, starting with the 16k internal spherical screen but also the futuristic approach of one of the world’s most renowned architecture firms, Populous, which has left its mark on major projects like Tottenham Stadium in London, the Climate Pledge Arenain Seattle, and the Wimbledon Tennis Centre.

Compared to previous experiences, The Sphere is undoubtedly the most innovative due to its spherical shape, considerable size, and technical features that have brought Las Vegas back into the international spotlight.

The Sphere, genesis and costs of the project

For anyone driving on the Las Vegas Strip near the Venetian, it is impossible not to be mesmerized by The Sphere. Viewed from above, the cars resemble ants next to the giant balloon funded by two giants of the city’s entertainment industry, the Madison Square Garden Company (from which the name MSG Square is derived) and Apollo Global Management.

At the time of its design, the financiers had estimated a cost of $1.2 billion, which grew to $1.66 billion in February 2020, $2 billion between 2021 and 2022 due to rising raw material costs, and reached $2.3 billion in 2023 when construction was completed. This makes The Sphere the most expensive entertainment infrastructure in Las Vegas’ history, surpassing the previous record of $1.9 billion held until July 4th (the day the sphere was first lit up) by the Allegiant Stadium, the 70,000-seat football stadium that hosts the Las Vegas Raiders’ games.

Building a spectacular structure

Creating a sphere that is 112 meters talland 157 meters wide required the adoption of entirely innovative construction techniques. The crane, which reached up to 180 meters in height and was used for the most extreme movements, started in Port Huenne, Belgium. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean by ship to reach California and was then transported by land to Las Vegas with the help of 120 trucks. It took 18 days of work just to assemble the pieces on-site.

The base of the structure, covering 7,400 square meters, was completed in October 2019, while the maximum height of the skeleton was reached in March 2020. The project was initially set to finish in 2021, but the arrival of COVID-19 necessitated the closure of the construction sites for several months, delaying the delivery until 2023.

The Sphere and others: the new life of the Strip

Now, the image of Mars’ surface, now the rotating Earth, now a huge watchful eye reminiscent of Sauron, the wicked antagonist of “The Lord of the Rings”—this is how the Strip’s skyline changes forever, thanks to the imposing profile of The Sphere.

In addition to the MSG-funded mega-project, the famous road, which stretches just under 7 kilometers along the casinos and major hotels of Las Vegas, is at the center of a profound redevelopment process involving some of the historic hotels. For example, the Fontainebleau Las Vegas is creating a massive resort that will require over ten years of work and $2 billion in investments. By the end of 2023, construction will begin on a mega shopping center in the Las Vegas Boulevard area. The city is renewing itself in its historic business and is doing so thanks to a series of strategic infrastructures, such as the new water collection systembuilt by the Webuild Group in Lake Mead. This innovative and complex infrastructure allows the collection of water from the largest artificial lake in the United States even during drought periods, ensuring a water supply to the millions of residents and visitors to the City of Lights.