Wembley Arena

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Wembley Arena
Wembley Arena.jpg
Wembley Arena frontage
Former names Empire Pool (1934–78)
Wembley Arena (1978–2014)
Location Wembley, London, England
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Owner Quintain plc
Operator AXS
Capacity 12,500
Opened 1934
Renovated 2005–06
2012 Summer Olympics

Wembley Arena /ˈwɛmbli/ (originally the Empire Pool and known through sponsorship as The SSE Arena, Wembley) is an indoor arena located in Wembley, London, England.


It was built for the 1934 British Empire Games, by Arthur Elvin, and originally housed a swimming pool, as reflected by its former name, Empire Pool. The pool itself was last used for the 1948 Summer Olympics. The building is used for music, comedy and family entertainment and for sport.

The venue was renovated, along with Wembley Stadium, as part of the early-21st-century regeneration of the Wembley area. The arena refurbishment cost £35m and the new arena opened to the public on 2 April 2006, with a concert by the English electronic-music band Depeche Mode.

With 12,500 seats, it is London's second-largest indoor arena after The O2 and third-largest indoor concert venue after the O2 and Earls Court, an exhibition hall which regularly stages concerts.

In September 2013, it was announced that AEG Facilities had signed a 15-year contract to operate the arena.[1]

The arena in SSE colours

On 10 April 2014, it was announced that the arena would be renamed The SSE Arena on 1 June 2014 after SSE plc bought the naming rights to the venue for 10 years.[2]

Led Zeppelin's Winter 1971 United Kingdom Tour was a concert tour of the United Kingdom by the English rock band. The tour commenced on 11 November and concluded on 15 December 1971.

It has been suggested that this tour confirmed the status of Led Zeppelin's supremacy in the United Kingdom rock marketplace.[1] Taking place immediately after the release of the band's fourth album, all tickets sold out despite going on sale less than a week before the commencement of the tour. Second shows at Wembley and at Manchester needed to be added after fans queued for up to eighteen hours in order to secure a ticket.[1]

This tour is particularly notable for the two concerts performed by the band at the Wembley Empire Pool, dubbed the "Electric Magic" shows.[2][3] These five hour shows included bizarre vaudeville circus acts with plate spinners, trapeze artists and performing pigs which were dressed in policeman's uniforms.[4] The concerts also incorporated supporting acts such as Stone the Crows, which was a rare event for Led Zeppelin at this point in their career.[1] A colour poster was sold to fans at the concerts for 30p, which is now a rare and highly sought-after collectible. An altered version of the poster was created for a two coloured silk-screen t-shirt print in 2010 for an official Led Zeppelin t-shirt.[5]

When the venue was known as the Empire Pool, it hosted the annual New Musical Express Poll Winners' concert during the mid-1960s. Audiences of 10,000 viewed acts likeBoy George, The Beatles (who performed there three times), T. Rex (whose Ringo Starr-directed documentary film Born to Boogie is centered on a 1972 concert at the Empire Pool), David Bowie, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, The Monkees, The Hollies, Dusty Springfield, Joe Brown & the Bruvvers, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, Simply Red, Status Quo, The Who, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, and many others. The individual performances were then finished by a famous personality joining the respective performer on stage and presenting them their award. The Beatles were presented one of their awards by actor Roger Moore and Richard was joined on stage by Roy Orbison, to present him his. These were filmed and recorded and later broadcast on television.

Returning acts

The Grateful Dead have released recordings of complete shows from 7–8 April 1972 as part of Europe '72: The Complete Recordings. The Grateful Dead also performed at Wembley Arena on 31 October 1990 as part of their fall 1990 European concert tour.[3] Bruce Hornsby accompanied the band for this concert.[4]

A notable attendance record was set in the early 1970s by David Cassidy, in his first tour of Great Britain in 1973, when he sold out six performances in one weekend.[5]

In 1978, The Electric Light Orchestra sold out eight straight concerts (a record at the time) during their Out of the Blue Tour.[citation needed] The first of these shows was recorded, televised and later released as a CD/DVD.

ABBA played six sold-out concerts, from 5 to 10 November 1979. The shows were filmed by Swedish television for a documentary which was released in 2004 on DVD as ABBA in Concert.[6] In September 2014 Universal Music released Live at Wembley Arena, featuring most of the 10 November concert on CD, vinyl LP and digital format. After the tour, the members of the band talked about the warmth of the Wembley audience. "It was like coming home after a couple of nights," said guitarist Bjorn Ulvaeus.[7] A finale from these concerts, "The Way Old Friends Do", is the closing track on ABBA's seventh studio album, Super Trouper. Vocalist Agnetha Faltskog said it was the vibe from the audience that made the track work so much better as a live performance than as a studio track.[7]

Cliff Richard has sold the most shows out at the venue.[citation needed] He has headlined 63 shows at the venue with his first headliner being in 1984 and his latest being 2009. Richard holds the record for the most headline shows by one artist (Though Ice Skater Torvill & Dean hold the overall show record), having played his 61st concert in October 2009.[citation needed] Tina Turner is the female artist with the most shows, with 25 and with 5 at Wembley Stadium (three in 1996 and two in 2000).[8]

Iron Maiden played first in 1988 (Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour x2), 1990 (No Prayer On The Road x2) and 1993 (A Real Live Tour x1). The 1990 shows were recorded for a triple live album but was never released. A few tracks from 17 December 1990 were released as b-sides on singles from the next album - Fear Of The Dark (1992).

McFly have performed at the arena six times over their career, selling more than 70,000 tickets there. From which they have released two concert DVDs and have streamed one concert over the internet, seen by people from all over the world.

The Cure have played 11 times at the arena between 1985 and 2008, the most notable performances being over 3 nights in July 1989 during the Prayer Tour, and an appearance on 19 January 1991, as part of a festival called 'The Great British Music Weekend'. The 1989 dates were recorded on soundboard, and several songs from those nights being released on a live album, entitled Entreat, while the 1991 night was filmed on video. 4 songs, 'Pictures of You', 'Fascination Street', 'Lullaby' and 'A Forest', featured on the video 'Play Out', with a further 4, 'Just Like Heaven', 'In between Days', 'Boys Don't Cry' and 'Disintegration', being broadcast on TV.


U2 first played Wembley Arena in for two consecutive nights in November 1984 on the UK leg of their Unforgettable Fire Tour. The songs "Bad" and "A Sort of Homecoming" from these shows were recorded and appeared on the Wide Awake in America EP. They returned to the arena in 1987 as part of the UK leg of The Joshua Tree Tour.

Dire Straits took up a 13-night residency at the Arena as part of their successful Brothers in Arms tour, only breaking off to head down the road to Wembley Stadium for an afternoon slot at Live Aid, in July 1985.

Meat Loaf & His Neverland Express performed two consecutive shows during his 20/20 Tour, on 1–2 March 1987, which were recorded and later released as a live album, entitled Live at Wembley.


George Michael performed four consecutive shows during his Cover to Cover Tour on 19–20 and 22–23 March 1991. During the final show, on the 23rd, Elton John made a surprise guest appearance and together they sang, as a duet, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me". This was recorded and released later that year, becoming a massive hit, with even greater success than the song's original release in 1974.

In April 1994, Barbra Streisand began her Barbra: The Concert Tour, with four performances at the arena. They marked her first performances in the UK after 28 years and were the only shows outside of the U.S. The opening song on the first night, "As If We Never Said Goodbye", was recorded and transmitted on BBC TV's Top of the Pops.

Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir recorded their "Live in London" album at the Wembley Auditorium in 1996. The album was released in 1997.

Diana Ross previewed her "Here and Now Tour" in November 1990 with two sold-out dates. She returned in June 1991 for 4 more sold-out nights of her "Here and Now World Tour". Diana had previously filmed her HBO "World Stage Tour" in 1989 and platinum live album, Greatest Hits Live from Wembley. Diana is the second most popular female solo artist, behind Tina Turner, for the most sold-out dates. Diana began appearing at Wembley in 1982 for her world tour.


Britney Spears performed during her Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour on 10–12 October 2000 and was broadcast on Sky1.

The Corrs performed at the Arena on 20–22 December 2000, the show on the 21st was broadcast live on Sky1 as a Christmas special, the show was watched by 500,000+ people and was the most watched TV program of the week on Sky1.

Christina Aguilera performed during her Stripped World Tour on 2-3 and 5 November 2003. The shows were filmed and later released as a DVD, entitled Stripped Live in the U.K.. She also performed in the arena in 2006 for her Back to Basics World Tour.

Feeder stopped by at the venue during their December 2003 Comfort in Sound Arena Tour, which was a follow-up to their 23-date tour of the same album where they played theater-sized venues. The show was recorded with microphones facing the stage and crowd with plans to release the show as a live album, but never has been released. The start of the show was also filmed, but the footage has to date not been used.

Beyoncé Knowles performed on two consecutive nights, during her Dangerously in Love Tour on 10–11 November 2003. Her show on the 10th was filmed and later released as a DVD, entitled Beyoncé: Live at Wembley.

Westlife performed two shows on 18 May and 19 May 2006. The shows were filmed and released on a DVD.

Girls Aloud performed during their Chemistry Tour in June 2006. The show from Wembley was later released on DVD.

Pink performed two shows during her I'm Not Dead Tour on 4 October and 4 December 2006. They were filmed and later released as a DVD, entitled Pink: Live from Wembley Arena.

Pearl Jam hold the attendance record for one show, with 12,470 fans at their 2007 gig.[9]

Bob Dylan has performed at the arena 12 times over his career, selling more that 150,000 tickets.[10]

Madonna played eight sold-out nights here during her Confessions Tour in 2006. The 15 & 16 August shows were filmed for The Confessions Tour DVD.

In 2011, it played host to the live finals of the Sky1 reality music competition Must Be the Music.


Alter Bridge performed on 29 November 2011 and released a DVD later.[11]

The 2011 UK X Factor final was shot at Wembley Arena over two days; girl band Little Mix won the competition on 11 December 2011. The X Factor returned to film their final at the Wembley Arena for the tenth series on 14 and 15 December 2013.

The Saturdays made their arena debut here on 16 December 2011, on their All Fired Up Live Tour, in front of a capacity of 11,478. They performed at the arena for the second time on 19 September 2014, as part of their Greatest Hits Tour.

Frank Turner performed on 27 April 2012 to a sell-out audience. A DVD was released later in the year.

Muse used the arena to rehearse their The 2nd Law World Tour in 2012. The band had previously performed at the venue on 27 November 2003 on their Absolution Tour, with some songs from their show put on the resulting DVD. Muse also performed 3 shows at the venue in November 2006.

On 28 September 2012, The Beach Boys performed at the arena for the last concert of their 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour.

On 7 October 2012, Wembley hosted the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards 2012 which starred fun., Conor Maynard, Little Mix, Ne-Yo, Taylor Swift and One Direction.

The surviving members of Bad Company (Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke) with Howard Leese and Lynn Sorensen, played to a sold out crowd in April 2010, with a DVD and CD recorded for the occasion.

American rock band Evanescence announced a return to the UK for a 4-date arena tour, which finished in Wembley Arena on 9 November 2012. The tour was in support of their self-titled third studio album.

You Me At Six performed on 8 December 2012 and sold out the venue. The show was filmed with a live DVD released in 2013.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation came to Wembley Arena on 6 December as part of the new production's arena tour of the UK in late 2012. The original version of The War of the Worlds was also on stage at Wembley in 2006 and was recorded for the DVD release of the show.

Nepathya became the first Nepalese band to perform at Wembley Arena on 3 August 2013. The concert was a grand success.

John Mayer performed an additional date of his 2013 world tour at Wembley Arena on 26 October 2013.[12]

Paramore performed here as part of the Brand New Eyes World Tour on 18 December 2009 and again on 27 & 28 September 2013 as part of The Self-Titled Tour.

Super Junior performed at the arena on 9 November 2013 as part of their fifth sold-out world tour, Super Show 5.

Avenged Sevenfold headlined the arena for the first time on 1 December 2013 as part of their Hail to the King Tour tour. They had support from Five Finger Death Punch and from the Swedish band Avatar.

Bullet For My Valentine have headlined the arena twice, on 12 December 2010 and 5 December 2013. Bring Me The Horizon and Atreyu were the opening acts for the 2010 show, while Asking Alexandria and Young Guns were the opening acts for the 2013 show.

On 4 August 2014, Canadian band Sins of the Fallen Son announced the first arena headline show of their career, to be held on 20 March 2015 and will be filmed for an upcoming DVD.

On 5 December 2014, British band Bring Me the Horizon played their last show before taking a break to write their next album.[13] The show was recorded and will be made in to a DVD.[14]

On 20 March 2015, American pop-punk band All Time Low headlined their first show in the arena. The show was filmed for the band's second DVD, it was a one-off show titled A Night in London With All Time Low.

System Of A Down played a concert on 10 April 2015 as part of their Wake Up The Souls Tour.[15]

5 Seconds of Summer performed 3 sold out shows between 12–14 June 2015 as part of their Rock Out With Your Socks Out Tour

Fall Out Boy are set to return to the arena on their American Beauty/American Psycho UK Tour between 11–12 October 2015. Standing tickets were sold out in 3 minutes for 11 October. Fall Out Boy announced an additional date due to "phenomenal demand".

Nightwish played their last show of Endless Forms Most Beautiful European Tour at the Arena on 19th December as their only UK show of 2015. They were also making history as the first ever band from Finland to Headline a show at the Famous Venue. At the Show band announced they were recording the whole show for a future Live DVD. Support came from Swedish Metal Band Arch Enemy and Finnish Metal band Amorphis

Sporting events

Wembley Arena with Olympic rings for the 2012 Summer Olympics

From 1934 until 1990 the Empire Pool / Wembley Arena was the venue for the Wembley Professional Tennis Championships which was a part of the professional grand slam from 1927 until 1967.

Indoor sporting events such as boxing, mixed martial arts and ice hockey have long been popular at the venue, notably the World Championship bout between then champion Alan Minter and challenger Marvin Hagler, which the latter won, after which a racially motivated riot followed.[citation needed]

From the late 1960s to the late 1970s, the Skol 6-Day cycle race was held here. An indoor velodrome of 166 metres was assembled from sections each September. This was Britain's first indoor velodrome. Top professional riders from the European 6-Day circuit came to London, including Eddy Merckx, Peter Post, Patrick Sercu and many others. British riders such as World pursuit champion Hugh Porter and British Champion Tony Gowland rode with distinction.

From 1979 to 1983, indoor speedway was held during the winter as a one off event, with the riders racing on concrete on a 181-yard track[16]

The Wembley Lions and Wembley Monarchs were two ice-hockey teams that used the venue regularly during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, while the London Lions used the venue for a season in the 1970s. Wembley also hosted the British Hockey League play-off finals weekend at the end of each season up until the league's disbandment in 1996. The arena also played host to NHL teams the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers for a pair of challenge matches in 1993.

More recently netball, darts, basketball, five-aside football, and cage fighting have made regular appearances on the calendar.

During the 1948 Summer Olympics, the venue hosted the Olympic boxing, Olympic diving, Olympic swimming, and Olympic water polo events.[17]

The Horse of the Year Show was held there from 1959–2002.

It hosted the final of the Whyte and Mackay Premier League Darts 2009. Whyte and Mackay Premier League Darts also hosted the playoff finals in 2010 at Wembley Arena. The 888.com 2011 Premier League Darts Finals also took place at Wembley.

Between 2007 and January 2011, it played host to Masters snooker.

The venue has hosted many professional wrestling events from Joint Promotions, WWE, WWE NXT, WCW, World Wrestling All-Stars and TNA Impact Wrestling including Impact TV tapings on 28 January 2012.[18][19]

The arena played host to a BAMMA event on 21 May 2011 (BAMMA 6) and 15 September 2012 (BAMMA 10).

The venue hosted Olympic badminton and Olympic rhythmic gymnastics at the 2012 Summer Olympics.[20]

On Saturday 16 February 2013, it played host to UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald, the first ever UFC event to be held at the venue.[21]

On 21 and 22 June 2014, the European League Of Legends Championship Series, which is a competitive Esports league in the computer game League of Legends, played its Week 5 matches in this arena.[22]

Between 15–18 October 2015, the 2015 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals took place in the Arena.[23]

Square of Fame

Square of Fame

With the reopening of Wembley Arena in 2006, a "Square of Fame" area has been created in front of the arena.[citation needed] Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, notable Wembley Arena performers are invited to have bronze plaques imprinted with their names and handprints. The first star to have a plaque was Madonna, on 1 August 2006.[24][not in citation given]

On 9 November 2006, Cliff Richard added his handprints to the Square.[citation needed] Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi, of Status Quo, unveiled a plaque, with one of each of their handprints, on 16 December 2006.[citation needed] On 9 January 2007, Kylie Minogue included her handprints, on the final day of the London leg of her Showgirl Homecoming Tour.[citation needed]

Seven-time World Snooker Champion Stephen Hendry added his handprints on 21 January 2007.[citation needed] International country superstar Dolly Parton unveiled her plaque, on the final night of her UK tour, on 25 March 2007.[citation needed]

Canadian music star Bryan Adams unveiled his plaque on 10 May 2007, just before his 25th appearance at the venue.[citation needed] Just three days later, former Commodores frontman Lionel Richie was presented with his plaque on 13 May 2007, after another sold-out performance at the arena.[citation needed]

Members of the Irish boyband Westlife unveiled their plaque on 28 March 2008, after 27 sell-out shows in the space of 10 years. They have sold 250,000 tickets. All four members, Shane Filan, Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan and Mark Feehily, were presented with a cast of their hands, which can also be seen in the Square of Fame, putting them as the arena's biggest selling pop band.[25][not in citation given]


Wembley Arena has been used in 2011 and 2012 for episodes of Strictly Come Dancing during the week of Children in Need. It is also used for the 2011, 2013 and 2014 final of The X Factor. The Wembley Arena was also the location of the first round of the ITV game show Red or Black? in 2011. Named the Red or Black? Arena on the programme, players must sit on a coloured seat that corresponds to one of the two colours. If they get it right, they'll move on to the next round.

On 22 September 2013, Wembley Arena hosted The Love School Event with a crowd of over 11,000 people when TV presenters Renato and Cris Cardoso shared their experience and delivered a hearty lesson of love for all. It was also the first time when a book (Bulletproof Marriage) was launched at the Wembley Arena.


Wembley Arena is served by Wembley Park Station on the London Underground via Olympic Way, and Wembley Central via the White Horse Bridge. It also has a rail link provided by the Wembley Stadium railway station to London Marylebone and Birmingham. The 92 bus route stops directly outside the arena.

The onsite parking facility is shared with Wembley Stadium, essentially being the open air surface parking surrounding the eastern flank of Wembley Stadium and the multistory car park. These are called Green Car Park and Red Car Park respectively. There is disabled parking available onsite, at the Green Car Park, at a reduced rate but on a first come first served basis.


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External links