Dom and Gary, The O2, London, UK
Every year, Dom and Gary meet to watch wrestling legends old and new battle it out at the WWE’s bi-annual brawl-fest in London.
It’s a tradition.
Dom and Gary met as fresh-faced students at the University of Portsmouth, and after three years of student nights out and days filled with carefree procrastination, a lifelong friendship was born.
With their heady university days behind them, opportunities to meet can be few and far between. Nevertheless, every year the two indulge their mutual love of wrestling in a pilgrimage to the WWE’s flagship show at London’s O2 arena. Six years after their tradition began, The O2 is finally finished, thanks to a £71m, two-year ISG project completing the circle surrounding the arena, and, in turn, the venue’s overall experience. A temporary ice rink has been converted into a vibrant, state-of-the-art outlet centre, putting the finishing touches on an iconic space – a world away from the days of the Millennium Dome, and offering Dom and Gary a full suite of entertainment under one roof.
From purposeless empty space to one of the most iconic venues in the world, The O2 is a white elephant that learnt to fly.
Think of Bon Jovi, Prince, Beyoncé, Paul McCartney and Adele, who have all wowed audiences at The O2 – and now, World Wrestling Entertainment.
The O2 has become one of the most successful and visited arenas in Europe, hosting over eight million people each year, and with unused space since the closure of the Millennium Dome in 2000, the need to fill the space was becoming increasingly evident. But the arena wanted to do more than just add in a few more restaurants or bars. It wanted to make The O2 a destination in London and create a space where people can shop, eat and play, all before enjoying the entertainment at the venue’s pièce de résistance – the 20,000-capacity arena itself.
ISG has brought this vision to life, connecting the circle that surrounds the arena with a shiny new 400,000 sq ft, 80-unit retail outlet centre under the canvas of the memorable white dome, and simultaneously putting the finishing touches on a revered space.
“This is the only venue in London where entertainment and retail truly converge. It’s been two-and-a-half years of construction, and I really want to say a huge thank you to everyone for all their help and support.”
- Alistair Wood, Executive Vice President, AEG Europe
It means Dom and Gary’s annual visit has been revitalised; previously having just a quick bite before heading into the arena, the new space now allows Dom and Gary to spend the day taking in the shops before sitting down to enjoy WWE’s flagship event, Monday Night RAW. It’s light years away from what the space used to be, and a vast improvement on the long, empty walk you’d have to make from The O2’s entrance to the ticket turnstile.
Like the many great acts that have attracted fans through The O2’s doors, it was essential for the outlet to make the same impact, and to affirm the artist formerly known as the ‘Millennium Dome’ as a go-to shopping destination. As soon as you enter, you’re met with the striking features of the cloud ceiling, and a colour-changing lighting feature to fit the mood and season.
Built across two zones called ‘Excite’ and ‘Relax’, the ICON Outlet centre features Excite as a two-storey mall arranged on both sides of a wide central street, with three buildings joined by walkways and bridges on the upper level, while the more tranquil Relax is a single-storey mall. You’d be forgiven for not realising that for the past 10 years this area was home only to a temporary ice rink.
“The O2 is famous for hosting some of the UK’s most anticipated events, and we had to work out the logistics and build sequence based around the venue’s schedule. It was clear from the start that it was imperative not to impact any of these events, and I am proud of the fact that we didn’t.”
- Fraser Tanner, Project Director
The team constructed two new steel frame buildings to incorporate the retail units, delivering these to shell and core along with the shopfronts. A new feature staircase was installed, as well as escalators, lifts, and ceiling features throughout. External works weren’t part of the original plan, but the client decided providing outdoor dining would drive traffic and enhance the customer experience. As a result, a new glass and steel structure was built, with landscaping also completed in the surrounding area.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. The team faced a number of challenges working in a live environment that has over three million visitors passing through for ticketed events each year. Space proved to be a challenge throughout, with the team working in the confines of a tent which restricted the height of machinery able to operate within the space.
With a significant amount of work based around one of the arena’s fire exits, all work had to stop in the hours leading up to and during an event. This included ‘dark days’, when work ceased during certain events, including the notable ATP Tennis Finals.
Fraser Tanner, ISG’s project director, explains: “The O2 is famous for hosting some of the UK’s most anticipated events, and we had to work out the logistics and build sequence based around the venue’s schedule. It was clear from the start that it was imperative not to impact any of these events, and I am proud of the fact that we didn’t.”
To ensure ISG was kept abreast of all upcoming events, the team met with the client regularly. “Delivering this build over an access point to the arena is a major testament to our team,” Fraser adds.
The O2 will continue to be one of the most iconic venues in the world and it can now, finally, be recognised as complete – with the ICON Outlet centre the cherry on the cake.