Every year, Dom and Gary meet to watch wrestling legends old and new battle it out at the WWE’s 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 The O2 arena. Six years after their tradition began, The O2 entertainment offering is complete, thanks to a £71m, two-year ISG project connecting the circle surrounding the arena, and, in turn, wrapping up the venue’s overall experience.
An open space has been converted into a vibrant, state-of-the-art shopping mall, putting the finishing touches on an iconic landmark – 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 London’s The O2 arena – and now, World Wrestling Entertainment.
The O2 is the world’s most popular music, entertainment and leisure venue and has been visited by over 70 million people since opening in 2007, and with unused space since the closure of the Millennium Dome in 2000, the need to complete the venue’s entertainment offering was evident. But the venue wanted to do more than just add in a few more restaurants or bars. It wanted to create a space for people to shop, eat and play, all before enjoying the entertainment at the venue’s pièce de résistance – the 20,000-capacity arena itself.
ISG has helped bring this vision to life, connecting the circle that surrounds the arena with a shiny new 210,000 sq ft, 65-unit shopping mall under the iconic tent, and simultaneously putting the finishing touches on a revered space.
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 the long walk to the entrance of the arena has been revitalised.
Like the many great acts that have attracted fans through The O2 arena’s doors, it was essential for Icon Outlet shopping mall to make the same impact, and to affirm the location as a go-to shopping destination. As soon as you enter the mall, you’re met with the striking features of the cloud ceiling, and a colour-changing lighting feature to fit the mood and season.
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 within the Entertainment District 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 over 200 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 Nitto ATP Tennis Finals.
Fraser Tanner, ISG’s project director, explains: “The O2 arena is famous for hosting some of the world’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 Icon Outlet shopping mall the cherry on the cake.