Inspire Arena looks to change the concertgoing experience in Korea

Inspire Arena inside the Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort on Yeongjong Island in Incheon [MOHEGAN INSPIRE ENTERTAINMENT RESORT]

YEONGJONG ISLAND, Incheon — Going to a K-pop concert in Korea used to require some compromise: To see one’s favorite star, fans had to settle for floppy plastic chairs, echoey acoustics, blocked stage views and waiting time outside in either the cold or heat.

The newly opened Inspire Arena, however, is looking to change this reality. With a 15,000-seat multipurpose hall specifically designed for live events, the venue inside Incheon’s Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort is poised to open a new era of live entertainment in Korea.

“Inspire Arena is a live performance space that lives up to K-pop’s risen reputation in the world today,” the resort’s general manager Jamie Jang told reporters on Tuesday. “Most K-pop festivals and awards are held abroad, in countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, not only because there are many international K-pop fans but also because Korea didn't have the proper facilities to hold these events of scale.

“We hope that Inspire Arena can bring Korean content back to Korea, and draw in many tourists to the country.”

SBS Gayo Daejeon was held at the Inspire Arena on Dec. 25, 2023. [NEWS1]

Inspire Arena opened in December by hosting the Melon Music Awards, which saw some 12,500 fans. It has since held music events including the annual year-end K-pop festival SBS Gayo Daejeon and a solo concert by boy band SHINee member Taemin. The venue is also well equipped for e-sports and even indoor tennis competitions, according to officials. This March, Arena is slated to house the World Table Tennis championships.

It currently shares the title of the biggest concert venue in Korea, along with KSPO Dome in Songpa District, southern Seoul. KSPO Dome is a gymnastics arena that was originally built for the 1988 Summer Olympics. All of the country’s live events requiring over 4,000 people capacity have, in fact, been only held in either gymnasiums or sports stadiums.

These stadiums' features don't even compare to what's available at Arena.

Inspire Arena inside the Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort on Yeongjong Island in Incheon [MOHEGAN INSPIRE ENTERTAINMENT RESORT]

The chairs are cushioned and the seats are organized so that every audience member has a clear view of the stage. The seats are also physically closer to the stage, by 10 meters (33 feet), compared to at the KSPO Dome. Girl group aespa member Karina herself was caught saying she was “nervous performing this close to the audience” during the Melon Music Awards.

Girl group aespa attends the 2023 Melon Music Awards held at the Inspire Arena [NEWS1]

Inspire Arena is equipped with the same Meyer Sound audio system as the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Mohegan Sun is the flagship property of Inspire Resort’s parent company Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment and has headlined big-name stars including Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Jay Z and Bon Jovi.

The walls of the proscenium are made with sound-absorbing materials to create high-quality acoustics.

The venue can also be designed to effectively translate the vision of artists and creators into reality.

Its ceiling can hold up to 100 tons worth of installations from 180 different location points. The stage can be rearranged in three different formations: a T-shaped stage that can seat 10,379 people, a 360-degree stage that can seat 14,987 people and a standing concert stage that can seat 12,779 people.

“If the Mohegan Inspire is an all-in-one resort, Inspire Arena is an all-in-one entertainment venue that is equipped with all the basic systems needed to put on a quality live show,” Jang said.

Melon Music Awards was held at the Inspire Arena on Dec. 2, 2023. [MOHEGAN INSPIRE ENTERTAINMENT RESORT]
Green room behind the stage at the Inspire Arena [MOHEGAN INSPIRE ENTERTAINMENT RESORT]

Inspire Arena isn’t only about impressive hardware, though: It is also poised to revolutionize the culture and experience of going to a live event.

Situated inside a resort 461,661 square meters in area (114 acres), Jang said that Inspire Arena will offer a “whole new paradigm to the art of concertgoing.”

Kinetic chandelier Rotunda in the lobby of the Inspire Arena [JOONGANG PHOTOS]

Some of the facilities that fans can enjoy include the resort's three five-star hotel towers with 1,275 rooms in total; an all-year-round indoor Splash Bay water park; Inspire mall that has around 75 stores; an outdoor Discovery Park; and 18 foodservice venues. Its 500-seat food court is slated to open in the second quarter of this year. There are also eight Quick Bites snack bars around the Arena.

Mohegan Inspire also officially received a license to operate its foreigners-only casino, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Wednesday. It is the first time in 19 years that the Korean government has granted this permit. The casino is slated to open within the next few weeks, according to resort officials.

There are also state-of-the-art attractions on the way leading up to the Inspire Arena inside the resort, like the 150-meter-long digital street Aurora, which features large LED screens on ceilings and walls, and a spacious lobby with a kinetic chandelier, Rotunda.

Digital street Aurora at the Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort [JOONGANG PHOTOS]
Michael Jordan's Steak House inside Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort is one of the resort's 18 F&B spaces. [MOHEGAN INSPIRE ENTERTAINMENT RESORT]

“Here, fans don’t have to wait outside until the concert, but rather, enjoy the resort,” Jang said. “They can even come a day or two earlier and spend time for themselves.”

The venue’s location is convenient for foreigners as well since it is just about a 10-minute drive away from Incheon International Airport. Some 40 to 50 percent of the audiences at K-pop events, like the Melon Music Awards, were foreigners, according to Jang.

It is about an hour's drive away from downtown Seoul, and the resort operates multiple free shuttles every day, to and fro, either from Seoul or the Incheon International Airport, to the resort.