AEG kicks off new complex

$1 billion O2 arena opens in London

With fireworks lighting up the docklands skyline, Anschutz Entertainment Group’s $1 billion entertainment complex in London, the O2, opened Sunday night in the former Millennium Dome.

Bon Jovi headlined the first show at the centerpiece $700 million O2 Arena, where 20,000 fans packed into the capital’s most expensive purpose-built music venue.

The arena actually made its debut last week via a private event for local residents, with AEG using the occasion to test facilities and pass health and safety checks ahead of the grand opening.

In addition to the state-of-the-art arena, AEG’s huge investment includes a 2,300-capacity live music club, a multiscreen cinema, restaurants and bars and an exhibition center. Complex will also incorporate nightclubs when development is complete.

AEG took sole responsibility for the venue after a joint venture failed, and billionaire Philip Anschutz’s transformation of the former Dome into an entertain-ment hub looks like money well spent. Mobile phone company O2 came aboard as sponsor of the arena.

With more than 1 million event tickets presold, the arena has already established itself on the capital’s live music scene.

During this opening week, AEG is staging a series of free lunchtime gigs at the site.

The Indigo live music club makes its debut with Jools Holland next week, when he and other stars perform at a benefit show to raise money for the Cutty Sark schooner, which was all but destroyed in a fire last month.

The Millennium Dome was built by the British government on former docklands in southeast London to house a yearlong exhibition to celebrate the millen-nium. However, it attracted half the expected numbers and closed deeply in debt.

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