U2’s colossal 360° stage, “The Claw,” is rising in Draper

By mbrooks on September 28, 2019
NASHVILLE, TN – MAY 26: Bono of the rock band U2 performs at Bridgestone Arena on May 26, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

One of U2’s famous stages is making its home in Utah.

“The Claw,” one of the biggest single stages ever built, is going up at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper.

The road to get there was really long.

Back in 2009, the U2’s staff had an unusual idea: turn the band’s iconic stages into concert venues.

The band’s tour architect Mark Fisher told the BBC what he had in mind.

“My vision, which I’ve been discussing with the band, is that we will turn them into concert pavilions,” Fisher said.

Utah’s connection began with one man going to see a U2 concert.

The CEO of the Living Planet Aquarium, Brent Andersen, traveled from Utah to Spain to see the premier of U2’s 360° tour back in 2009.

He told Rolling Stone magazine of the awe-inspiring sight that met him in Barcelona.

“I was kind of holding up the line because I just wanted to look at it and take it in. I didn’t really view it as just simply a functional piece of architecture. For me, it was a dynamic sculpture. It was a work of art,” Andersen said.

It just so happened that the aquarium had just acquired nine acres on land for expansion.

Andersen started to imagine what might be.

But first, he had to get it.

Bigger than 30 T-Rexes

Panther Management would oversee the stage’s change of ownership. The buyer would need to come with a big dream and a big wallet.

The management company would make the stage available for purchase immediately following the conclusion of the U2 360° Tour, set to end in Canada in the summer of 2011.

Panther Management moved The Claw to the east coast for storage until a buyer was ready.

This stage was gargantuan. A leviathan.

It weighed about 190 tons. That’s weight of thirty Tyrannosaurus Rexes.

It was 165 feet in height and took up an area of 28,287 square feet.

“There was a lot of engineering issues that we had to get through,” Andersen told Rolling Stone. “This giant structure was meant to be assembled and disassembled in the span of about three days and then moved. We are turning it into a permanent structure that should last for 70 or 80 years.”

Reusing an old stage was environmentally better than creating a similar amount of steel to create something new.

The aquarium says that it is preventing “760,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere – that’s the equivalent of conserving 35,500 gallons of gasoline emission” by recycling the U2 venue.

The set up was not like erecting a tent you bought from a neighbor.

The designers of The Claw did not intend for its lights to shine permanently outdoors. That issue was not relevant anyway because the behemoth didn’t come with its original lights.

A virtual spaceship

In it’s permanent Draper home The Claw will tower 10 stories above the nearby I-15.

The members of U2 called it a spaceship. With the theme of space in mind, Andersen renamed it to the Ecosystem Exploration Craft & Observatory.

In an interview with the U2 fan website @U2, explained how the EECO will take on the role of a virtual spaceship.

“When our guest sits and puts on the VR headset, they will begin a virtual eco-mission that takes them somewhere in the world. The stage becomes the bridge of the ship, and it unlocks from its position on the ground, levitates up into the bottom of the Claw (EECO), and then the whole thing takes off and becomes our guests’ ship for exploration,” Andersen says.

Weather permitting, EECO will soon rise to its full height, almost 10 stories high. That’s the equivalent of approximately 60 Gentoo penguins stacked on top of one another!

Posted by The Living Planet Aquarium on Friday, September 20, 2019

The aquarium has no confirmed plans for U2 to come see the band’s old stage. But fans like Andersen have their hopes. How much harder could it be to get a band to Utah compared with a nearly 200-ton stage?

The completion for The Claw/EECO will be in November 2019 and with an opening set for the spring of 2020.


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