Wembley Arena or SSE Arena is an indoor arts venue that holds around 12,500 spectators. It is one of the most famous music venues in the UK and has welcomed thousands of artists over its long history of existence. It is also the 2nd largest indoor arena in the British capital London, eclipsed only by the 02 arena, which can hold up to 20,000 people.
The original Wembley arena was constructed for the 1934 British Empire Games and housed a competition standard swimming pool, which influenced its original name Empire Pool. The pool remained in active service until the 1948 Summer Olympics held in England, after which it was replaced by a multi-functional arena that could be used for music, comedy, theatre and sport.
Over the years, the arena has been most closely associated with music. When the venue was still knowns as Empire Pool it hosted the annual NME poll winners party, which drew performances from the cream of the 1960s music scene including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Who and David Bowie. The concerts were filmed and later appeared on television.
The Arena has continued to host concerts, shows and some sporting events to this day. It was significantly redeveloped as part of the regeneration of the entire Wembley area in the early part of the new century. A Square of Fame has also been added outside the Arena, with handprints contributed by many artists who played there alongside commemorative plaques.
Notable Performances and Records
- Cliff Richard holds the record for the most headline performances at the arena with 63 shows under his belt.
- David Cassidy set an attendance milestone when he played 8 different Wembley concerts in 1973.
- ELO sold out 8 consecutive nights at the venue in 1978, which was a record at the time.
- ABBA played 6 famous dates at Wembley arena, footage from which has been released on video and DVD. The live recording of ‘The Way Old Friends Do’ was included on the band’s seventh studio album.
- Dire Straits played a 13 night residency at the Arena as part of their 1985 Brothers In Arms tour. They only broke off to nip across Wembley Park and play Live Aid at Wembley Stadium.
- The Arena has hosted the final of popular UK singing competition The X-Factor since 2011.
Wembley Arena Facilities
The Arena is home to a 160 seater restaurant as well as scores of refreshment stands. Visitors can enjoy a range of food and drinks including Mexican food, burgers, pork roast baps, coffees, beer, wine and soft drinks. VIP experiences are also available for most events and sometimes include backstage access in addition to other perks.