L.A. firm to build arena in Millennium Dome, U.K.

By Simon Avery, The Associated Press
Friday December 21, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Anschutz Entertainment Group has spent the last few years putting its mark on Los Angeles. 

Now the private firm behind the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings and the Kodak Theater thinks it can turn Britain’s troubled Millennium Dome into a profitable entertainment operation. 

Timothy Leiweke, president of Los Angeles-based AEG, said the firm will use its expertise developing mega-venues in the United States to revolutionize the U.K market. 

“When you look at London, it is maybe the best entertainment district in the world, but the facilities there are very old,” he said. “We are prepared to spend quite a bit of money to develop this destination.” 

The arena, to open in 2005, will host as many as 200 events a year, including 80 concerts, as well as soccer, boxing and tennis matches. 

In addition, AEG will use the venue to showcase some of its own U.S. professional sports interests in the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association, Leiweke said. 

AEG is a division of the empire of Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz. One of the richest men in the United States, his holdings include Qwest Communications, numerous professional sports teams, the troubled theater chain United Artists and two oil companies. 

For this venture, the company is part of a consortium called Meridian Delta Ltd. that has signed a letter of agreement with the British government to acquire the costly and controversial landmark for no charge. 

In return, AEG will spend at least $200 million to develop and manage a 20,000 seat arena enclosed in the Millennium Dome. The other two members of the venture, London’s Quintain Estates Ltd. and Australia’s Lend Lease Europe Ltd., will build homes and offices on prime real estate surrounding the Dome on the Thames River. 

The British government will receive an undisclosed portion of any profits generated by the consortium. It hopes to recoup millions of pounds of taxpayer money sunk into the project, which has been derided as one of the greatest white elephants in British history. 

The government had intended the Dome’s mixture of exhibits, interactive technology and live shows to serve as a symbol of the new century in Europe. But officials badly miscalculated attendance.  

The site closed last Dec. 31 after garnering much public ridicule. 

“Our vision for this project is much different from the original,” Leiweke said. When the new Dome is opened, it will be an entertainment destination that includes restaurants, casinos, bars, offices and residences, he said. 

“We believe if we build it, they will come.”