Sunday, December 29, 2019

Empire Pool and Sports Arena (Wembley Arena)

London The Unfinished City
Wembley Arena with the fountains in the Square of Fame.

Sunday December 29, 2019.

Wembley is one of those places that I only visit if I am going to see something at the Stadium. However, it has been many years since I have visited the Arena, to see a concert.

My first memory of seeing something at the Arena was back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was taken to see Holiday on Ice, by my nan.

Then, in September 1988, I saw Belinda Carlisle in concert. That December I went to my first Iron Maiden gig, there.

Since then I have seen Joe Cocker, Meat Loaf, Sheryl Crow, Iron Maiden (again) and more.

On this visit, to Wembley, it was purely to see the Christmas Lights Festival, so I took this photo, as I did not know when I would next return to the area.

Brief History

Designed by Sir Owen Williams, and built by Arthur Elvin, was originally called the Empire Pool and Sports Arena, for the 1934 British Empire Games. The pool, now long gone, was last used for the 1948 Summer Olympic Games.

Recognising the building as one of 'special architectural interest, technological innovation and virtuosity', the Empire Pool was awarded Grade II Listed status, in 1976.

On February 1, 1978, the Empire Pool was renamed Wembley Arena.

The Arena hosted sporting events from 1934 until 1990, which included:

  • Wembley Professional Tennis Championships
  • Boxing
  • Ice Hockey
  • Indoor Speedway
  • Netball
  • Darts
  • Mixed Martial Arts
  • Horse of the Year Show (1959-2002)

In February 2005 Wembley Arena closed its doors for a £35 million refurbishment, and did not reopen until April 2, 2006.

Following its refurbishment fountains were installed, in front of the Arena, in what would come to be known as the 'Square of Fame'. Notable Arena performers can have their names and handprints (or feet, in the case of Michael Flatley) imprinted in bronze plaques, which are then placed around the Square. These include:

  • Harlem Globetrotters
  • Michael Flatley
  • The Who
  • Westlife
  • Madonna
  • The Police
  • Torvill & Dean
  • Dame Shirley Bassey
  • Donny Osmond
  • Alice Cooper
  • Bryan Adams
  • Status Quo

On June 1, 2014 the energy company SSE plc bought the venues naming rights for the next ten years.

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