From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’, Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008)
The 02 Arena, Dublin’s long-awaited major indoor concert venue, started life as a very big cast-iron warehouse. It was built in 1878 by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company as a riverside goods depot. Its location beside the point at which the East Wall and North Wall met provided its useful name, the Point Depot. During the 1940s and 1950s, its particular forté was the maintenance, service and storage of vehicles. By the 1980s, the building was abandoned and facing collapse. In 1988, local businessman Harry Crosbie purchased the 15-acre site, depot included, from CIÉ for £750,000 (€952,500). Crosbie recruited Shay Cleary Architects to convert the building into a multi purpose concert, exhibition and conference centre. While the premises were being fitted out with balconies, offices and backstage facilities, a band called U2 recorded part of their Rattle and Hum album in the building. They later gave their seal of approval to the completed venue when they played four nights here at the end of their Lovetown Tour in 1989.
THE POINT THEATRE
In 1988, the Point Theatre opened with a concert by San Franciscan rockers, Huey Lewis and the News. By the early 1990s, the Point was firmly established as the number one music venue in Dublin for those seeking a big crowd. It hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, 1995, and 1997, and is thus far the only venue to have hosted the final three times. During an interval in the 1994 Contest, the debut performance of Riverdance sent ripples up spines across the world and a phenomenon was born. The 1999 MTV Europe Music Awards was also held at the Point while the impressive litany of bands to perform here spans the generations from Bowie to Beyoncé, with Westlife notching up the record of 12 concerts. It also served as an ice rink, a conference hall, an exhibition centre, a wrestling ring, a theatre, an opera house and a three-ring circus. The final event to take place in the Point before refurbishment was the European Super-Bantamweight Championship of August 2007 in which Spanish challenger Kiko 'La Sensacion' Martinez floored Bernard Dunne within the first minute.
By the summer of 2007, Crosbie had formed a partnership with Live Nation, a major live events company based in Beverly Hills, California. They closed the Point down, pumped €80 million into refurbishing the building and reopened it as a 21st century amphitheatre in December 2008. The building was carried out by Walls Construction who, as it happens, were the contractors who transformed the Point Depot into the Point Theatre 20 years ago. The Point’s new name is the 02 Arena, a nod to corporate sponsors Telefónica Europe plc, the European telecommunications giant better known by the brand name of O2. They also sponsor the multi-award winning 02 in London and the new O2 Arena in Berlin. The owners insist the 02 Arena is for music only. Sporting events may find their own turf. The theatrically minded can always consider the new Grand Canal Theatre, also owned by Crosbie and Live Nation.
STANDING OR SITTING, SIR?
The old Victorian warehouse is still very much in evidence at the 02 Arena, yet its bricks and pillars have been shuffled about to create a considerably more spacious ambience. This cutting edge new arena has a capacity of over 14,000 standing. In fact, the bands have the option to request whether their audience should be seated or standing. The design is such that wherever you are sitting, the stage is never more than 60m away, with the nearest lavatory, bar and exit always close at hand. The owners expect the 02 Arena to be in use for around 150 nights each year - with a projected audience figure of two million a year. As the undisputed premiere music venue in modern Ireland, we can expect The 02 to draw a large number of major acts deep into the docklands.
THE POINT VILLAGE
Hand in hand with the opening of the O2 Arena is the creation of Harry Crosbie’s €850 million Point Village (Sráidbhaile an Phointe). This new city quarter is scheduled to include a 120m(394ft) 35-storey skyscraper, to be called the 'Watchtower', with around 150 apartments, 500 m² of office space and a rooftop bar. Elsewhere in the Village, there will be a 23,000 m² shopping centre, a 250-room 4-star Choice Hotels hotel, 13,000 m² of offices, a 3-story underground car park with capacity for 1,000 vehicles, a smaller 2000-seater theatre and a 12-screen cinema. There are plans for the ‘U2 Experience’, designed as a shrine to the famous rockers who started their career playing on the rooftops of nearby Sheriff Street. Crosbie has also unveiled proposals for a 35m (110ft) high ‘Giant Man’ that will allow visitors to walk around inside and learn about how the human body works. The ‘Giant Man’ project is supported by the Royal College of Surgeons. The Point Village will be connected to the city centre by an extension of the Luas light rail extension into the heart of the village.