First published in the Sept. 25 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Burbank community members who’ve driven down Hollywood Way recently may have spotted an unfamiliar sight — a large dome being built near the thoroughfare’s intersection with Empire Avenue.
It’s not a half-hearted replication of Walt Disney World Resort’s Spaceship Earth, nor is it a new indoor soccer field. The dome, which will be about 186 feet in diameter and 95 feet high, according to planning documents submitted to the city, will instead serve as a Madison Square Garden Entertainment production facility which will develop media for an even larger, hemispherical auditorium in Las Vegas.
Construction on the local dome began in June, Burbank associate planner Greg Mirza-Avakyan told the Leader, and is expected to finish by the end of this year or the beginning of 2022.
Once the facility is operational, MSG Entertainment employees there will produce and edit content for use at the Las Vegas entertainment venue. Unlike that location, the Burbank building will not host shows or otherwise be open to the public.
Though community members posting about the dome on social media appear divided about its merit — with some enjoying the unique appearance and others calling it an “eyesore” — Burbank Planning Board members lauded its arrival.
The three members present at the board’s June meeting unanimously approved the project, saying it would be a great addition to the self-proclaimed “Media Capital of the World.”
“I think this is a great project,” board member Matt Gamboa said at the meeting. “I think it’s exactly what Burbank should have in a space like this. … It’s just a big, kind of a cool, structure.”
City staff members told the board that the parcel on which the facility is being built had been vacant for some time, though it’s not clear how long that has been the case. Mirza-Avakyan said a Lockheed Corp. building that used to be there was likely demolished in the late 1990s.
Burbank representatives also noted that the development would include widening the adjacent sidewalks and a new mid-block crosswalk.
Some of the employees who will work at the site, which will include 54 parking spaces, are currently located at the Burbank Studios, property owner Jeff Worthe said at the meeting. But with those studios scheduled to be sold to Warner Bros. in 2023, he explained, those employees will need somewhere to go.
Worthe is the president of a major real estate group whose properties include the Burbank Studios, the Second Century Project and several media studios near the Hollywood Burbank Airport.
Responding to potential concerns about the dome’s 95-foot height, Burbank representatives said that some nearby buildings are as tall or taller, and that the Federal Aviation Administration said the project did not pose a hazard to flights from the nearby airport.
The Marriott Hotel towers to the north, city staff members noted in a report, are also about 95 feet tall.
Though he and his fellow Planning Board members supported the project, Christopher Rizzotti warned staff members that the unique appearance of the new building would likely invite a wave of questions about the development — a prediction that, after construction began, appeared to be true.
“Your phones are going to be ringing off the hook [from people asking] what the dome is,” he said.