It was built for the 1934 British Empire Games at Wembley, 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, family entertainment and sport.
The venue was renovated, along with Wembley Stadium, as part of the early-21st-century regeneration of the Wembley Park area. The arena was temporarily closed in February 2005, with refurbishment costing £35m. Concerts were held at the neighbouring temporary Wembley Pavilion instead. 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.
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 like 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, (who played there on their 1977 "In the Flesh" tour). The Eagles on their Hotel California 1978 tour, The Grateful Dead, Status Quo, The Who, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, were among many others. The individual performances were then finished by a famous personality joining the respective performer on stage and presenting them with their award. The Beatles were presented with one of their awards by actor Roger Moore and Joe Brown was joined on stage by Roy Orbison, to present him with his own award. These ceremonies were filmed and recorded and later broadcast on television.
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. Bruce Hornsby accompanied the band for this concert.
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. 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 Björn Ulvaeus. A finale from these concerts, "The Way Old Friends Do", is the closing track on ABBA's seventh studio album, Super Trouper. Vocalist Agnetha Fältskog 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.
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)  Cliff Richard is the male artist with the most number of shows with 61, whereas Status Quo hold the record for a rock band with 45 performances. Irish band Westlife are the pop band with most shows with 28, and comedian Lee Evans 23 performances.
On 12 November 2017, the 2017 MTV Europe Music Awards ceremony was held at the arena. The event was hosted by Rita Ora and featured performances from Eminem, Demi Lovato, U2, The Killers, Kesha and more.
Indoor sporting events such as boxing, five-a-side football 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.
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.
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, mixed martial arts and cage fighting have made regular appearances on the calendar.
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, when Phil Taylor hit two nine-dart-finishes in the final and became the first player to achieve two nine-darters in one match. The 888.com 2011 Premier League Darts Finals also took place at Wembley.
With the reopening of Wembley Arena in 2006, a "Square of Fame" area has been created in front of the arena. 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.[not in citation given]
The SSE Arena, Wembley 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 Operated By Chiltern Railways The 92 bus route stops directly outside the arena. Wembley Central station is nearby, located on High Road, providing London Overground, London Underground, London Midland and Southern rail services.
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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