- Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth beacons capture crowd movements
- Catering JV to offer more food and beverage options and speedier service
- Business planners sat with design team to update revenue model and stadium plans concurrently
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a venue that readily evokes superlatives. Aside from being the first arena outside of the US to be specifically designed to host NFL fixtures, the stadium also boasts the world’s first ‘dividing retractable pitch’. Its giant, 17,500-capacity South Stand is the largest single-tier stand in the country while the 65-metre Goal Line Bar that runs behind it is reported to be the longest in Europe.
Project architect Christopher Lee, managing director, EMEA, Populous, is not shy of singular language either, saying that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is the most demanding client he has worked for. Asked whether the 62,062-seat arena is the best of its kind in the world, he qualifies his answer, but only a little.
“I think this is one of the best stadiums, if not the best stadium, in the world,” he tells SportBusiness. “There are great bits to great stadiums, some designed by us and some designed by others, but I think this stadium has everything in one package: it has an incredible bowl, it has multi-use, it has phenomenal experiences. I think it sets a new benchmark for stadium design around the world.”
Levy says the club still doesn’t know the true cost of the new venue because it is still making various improvements but thinks the price tag is “in the order of” £1bn (€1.2bn/$1.3bn).
This figure is the total project cost, including property acquisitions and housing developments in the surrounding area, planning obligations and levies. The cost of the arena alone is thought to be about £637m – a figure that comprises the original budgeted cost of £400m and the £247m of extra borrowing the club announced last October.
Critics portrayed this extra borrowing as evidence of ‘spiralling costs’, but architect Lee says the club has taken a calculated decision to upgrade the venue specifications because they will deliver a return on the investment.
“Their original scheme, which they got planning for, was a 58,000-seat, relatively traditional football stadium,” he says. “There has been no out-of-control cost escalation. It has been a deliberate and calculated move to upgrade the stadium: if we build space X, what’s the revenue, what’s the capital expenditure?”
Business planners from Druid Consulting were embedded with the design team. This enabled the revenue model and building design to be updated concurrently. “You end up with this very tight building that is, for us as architects, very much about the experience for the customer, but the output is also efficient and about revenue generation,” says Lee.
Sources say the debt is structured around conservative revenue projections that depend on the sizeable broadcast revenues paid by the Premier League and is not dependent on qualification for the Uefa Champions League.
The bank facility of £637m provided by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and HSBC was put in place in 2017, and matures in 2022. Now that the stadium is complete the club will look to refinance the bank loan into a much longer capital markets instrument well before the current 2022 maturity.
“It was all financed privately by a combination of club revenues and supportive banks,” says Levy. “In terms of the payback, it’s over the long term. This stadium will be here for way past the lives of any of us and we see increased revenue streams, not just from our core football club but also the other activities that take place on non-matchdays.”
SportBusiness recently toured the new arena and heard from Lee, Levy and Tottenham’s executive director Donna-Maria Cullen on the commercial thinking behind some of the most striking features of the club’s new home.
IT and Wi-Fi offers wayfinding and captures crowd movement data
“This is the only stadium in the United Kingdom that has all four mobile networks,” says Levy. “There’s nothing more annoying for a fan than going to a stadium and not being able to use your mobile phone and Wi-Fi.”
The club worked with official IT Networking and Wireless Infrastructure partner Hewlett Packard Enterprise to integrate 1,614 Wi-Fi access points under seats and into railings to create continuous, high-density coverage.
Seven hundred Bluetooth beacons work in conjunction with the official Spurs app to provide wayfinding services to fans and enable the club to send them push notifications based on their location and interests. If a fan visited the Tottenham retail store on a previous visit, for example, the club could send them a discount code to encourage them to visit again.
The technology, which was also deployed at last year’s Ryder Cup in France, would allow the club to send more staff to an overcrowded bar or, if the queue for one toilet is larger than others, they could use the intelligent signage displays at the stadium and notifications in the app to direct fans to alternatives.
“By tracking historic movement data, the club can identify peak times and locations, so they can adjust staffing levels to meet demand,” says Marc Waters, HPE managing director for the UK & Ireland. “The effectiveness of retail outlets versus footfall can be better understood, and revenue opportunities optimised, through planning and proactive notifications based on known interests.”
Higher quality finishes in general admission areas (and toilets)
Levy took great pride in showing the quality of the finishes in the general admission toilets, arguing that they signified an attempt to redefine base-level standards in stadium design.
“I take a view that toilets are a good indicator of how we expect this stadium to be finished,” he says. “If you go into a top-class restaurant and the toilets are dirty, that’s not normally a good sign. We spent a lot of time and money designing our general admission toilets.”
The standard is replicated in the general admission bars, where Lee says the timber counter tops and more durable beer taps and detailing are a nod to German beer halls. The aesthetic also serves to encourage fans to arrive earlier and enjoy a pre-match drink at the stadium rather than a nearby pub.
Artwork by local artists and walls featuring montages of match programmes are a departure for fans accustomed to the bland communal areas of most British stadiums.
Lee says: “We wanted interiors that look better, wear better, that look better in ten years than they did on the opening day, that get the marks of generations and generations of Spurs fans.”
Fewer corporate boxes and 19 hospitality ‘products’
The club has installed just 80 corporate boxes at its new stadium as it looks to target a more diverse range of clients with a more flexible hospitality approach. White Hart Lane had 120.
“I think the box market has changed and is definitely changing,” Lee tells SportBusiness. “I think the business has traditionally built 150-plus boxes in these stadiums and ended up forcing a lot of predominantly small-to-medium enterprises into them. But a private box is a huge commitment, not just for the financials of actually buying the box, but getting six staff and six clients, week-in week-out to fill them.”
Lee said Tottenham had opted to develop a smaller number of “bigger, higher-end” private suites to target larger corporations and high-net worth individuals, but a more diverse array of intermediate “products” to cater for a variety of client needs further down the chain. Overall, Lee estimated there are 19 different hospitality products in the new venue, from general admission tickets to the highest specification “Super Lounges”. He likens the different options to the suite of products available to airline passengers.
“I’ve described it as probably the most democratic stadium that has ever been designed. And by that I think we mean this isn’t guys and girls on carpet in corporate posh areas and the rest of the fans either side of them in plastic seats,” he said.
The newest innovation in the stadium is the introduction of ‘loge suites’, which allow groups of four to six people to take a dining booth in a shared communal box. Levy said the idea was inspired by recent stadium builds in the US: “A lot of people now don’t want a full box, so this is a small area within an open space where you have your own booth and it’s semi-private.”
The new stadium also features two “tunnel clubs” offering a select number of clients a dining and hospitality experience alongside the tunnel where the players enter the pitch. The first of these spaces is in the West Stand near to the home and away football dressing rooms, the second is in the East Stand near to a second set of changing room facilities that have been specially designed for NFL players and the stadium’s hosting of regular NFL games.
Another feature is a pair of premium ‘Sky Lounges’ at the back of the upper seating tiers in the East and West Stands, designed as a meeting place for a predominantly younger crowd pre- and post- game. Next season these will be linked by a ‘Sky Bridge’, a 2.5m glass walkway that will allow fans to walk behind the goal at the north end.
“It’s a space that’s going to be used very heavily on non-match days as well as matchdays,” says Lee of the Sky Lounges. “It’s a little bit like the nightclub at Paris Saint-Germain, or the Hyde Lounge at [Los Angeles’] Staples Center.”
Levy said the new stadium has 8,000 corporate seats out of total capacity of 62,062 and that all these seats have sold out for the 2019-20 season.
Catering joint venture for general admission and Michelin-starred dining in premium spaces
Tottenham entered into a joint venture with a catering company in order to have more say in the pricing, quality and range of food options sold at the new stadium. This allows the club to apply a similarly tiered approach to the food as it has to the corporate boxes.
“Other stadiums basically sell their catering rights with a contribution from the catering company towards the fit-out and the kitchens, and then it’s up to the catering company to run the operation,” says Levy. “I don’t believe in that, certainly from the fan’s viewpoint, because they end up getting a bad service and high prices. We’re the exact opposite: we paid for all the kitchens, we paid for everything and they [the catering company] are managing the process.”
The best illustration of the diversity of choice is the South Stand marketplace where burger, pizza and noodle concessions combine with a rotisserie chicken counter to create a street food dining ambience.
Lee says the club offers a similarly flexible array of dining options in the hospitality boxes and club suites. Diners in any of the fourth-floor loge boxes, 21-person corporate or personal suites and the highest-end H Club – a 140-person private members’ club – can choose from a range of ‘On Four’ food experiences delivered by world famous chefs like the Roux family and Chris Galvin.
“On a match by match basis anyone on a club level can upgrade to a restaurant or a series of different upgrade experiences,” he says. “Ultimately what we wanted to produce was this idea that you have different experiences, even as a single customer.”
The club has also struck up a joint venture with local brewer – and now the club’s official craft beer supplier – Beavertown, to build a microbrewery in the South Stand.
Hands-free pumps that serve beer from the bottom up allow for multiple servings and for beer to be served nine times faster. The stadium is also the first in the UK to be completely cashless.
Club becomes housing developer
While the stadium itself is a beacon of the money flowing through Premier League clubs today, it looms over the streets of the fifth most deprived borough in central London.
Cullen says the club has invested heavily in the local area and become a significant player in the Tottenham housing market, as a result of both planning obligations around the stadium and a realisation that improvement in local living standards will help the club to sweat the asset on non-matchdays.
The club has already built 258 new affordable homes in the area as part of Phase 1 of the project, with plans to build a further 616 homes, 38 per cent of which will be affordable. It has also built a primary school and the adjoining Lilywhite House, which is home to the club offices and the London Academy of Excellence, a state-funded sixth form college.
Cullen says the stadium has created a ripple effect in the area and triggered £100m of investment in transport infrastructure by Transport for London. “All of a sudden you’re getting Phase 1, Phase 2 interest from developers because every scheme needs that single flagship development,” she says.
Phase 3 of the project includes plans for a hotel with rooms built to NFL specifications and with approximately 50 private apartments on top. This phase also includes plans for a ‘multi-sport hub’ featuring a huge outdoor climbing wall to attract visitors all year round.
Levy talks of turning a row of nearby terraced houses that the club recently acquired into ‘an art and music hub’ while Lee says he would like the new stadium to become ‘Tottenham’s town hall.’ The Trafalgar-Square-sized South Podium area outside the South Stand will offer the ability to host food markets and festivals.
When complete, the club claims the stadium development will support 3,500 new jobs and pump £293m into the local economy each year – an increase of 1,700 jobs and £166m in local spending.
Roof walking, museum, stadium tours and retail
Levy boasts that the huge Tottenham Experience Store in the southwest corner of the ground is bigger than the Nike Town store in central London. The club had to integrate a 400-year-old listed building into the new structure that will house the club museum. The building also includes a roof terrace where official beer partner Heineken will have a bar overlooking the stadium.
Starting in the summer the shop will sell stadium tours and, later, roof walking tours which will allow visitors to walk on the glass roof of the stadium and around the 4.6 metre golden cockerel that is an enlarged 3D replica of the one that adorned the roof of the club’s old home (including the dent made when former player Paul Gascoigne shot it with an air rifle). The roof tour will offer customers the chance to abseil onto the South Podium.
Cullen says the club will endeavour to employ local people in the store, tours and the conference and banqueting operations.
Retractable pitch unlocks multiple uses
The dividing retractable pitch, which Lee likens to the Thunderbird’s ‘Tracy Island’, is central to the club’s ambition to create a multi-use venue. It also provided Populous with their most complicated technical challenges.
“In the NFL there’s an entourage of about 80 massive guys standing in the way, so for NFL stadiums in the US we design the first row of seats about a metre and a half above the pitch,” says Lee. “The other tricky bit is that, unlike most stadiums which have a field that slides out, we had a very small end zone.”
The design team created a solution in which two side sections of the grass pitch slide out like drawers to the east and west to allow the central section to be moved out under the South Stand. This reveals a sunken artificial pitch that meets NFL specifications, and can host concerts and other events to spare the more delicate grass pitch. Lee says grow lights, robotic mowers and sprinklers maintain the condition of the football surface while it sits beneath the stands.
Rather than a single changing room that could adapt to both the Premier League side and an NFL team, the designers opted to create two sets: home and away football dressing rooms in the West Stand and a pair of bespoke NFL changing rooms in the East Stand. The NFL dressing rooms include their own press rooms and work rooms and the designers have accommodated the ability for teams to have all of their equipment pre-screened and x-rayed at the stadium to save having to do this at the airport on their return to the US.
To prepare for the potential reintroduction of standing in British grounds, the designers also created a bespoke 5,000-capacity rail seating section in the South Stand.
The flexible approach also extends to the media room, which doubles as a café and bar on non-event days, and the press conference room, which will be available for hire as a private cinema. Similarly, large, column-free spaces with AV capabilities and blackout blinds have been designed with conferences and banquets in mind.
“On a non-matchday we have the third largest conference facilities in London, and we believe conferencing will become a very important part of the corporate income stream for the club, particularly when we build the hotel,” says Levy.
LED inventory provides blank canvas for sponsorship and multi-event use
The huge amount of LED inventory inside and outside the new ground provides a blank canvas for sponsors and event organisers to brand the venue quickly. This includes roof and façade branding for a future naming rights partner.
Inside the stadium, the east and west stands have four levels of LED boards including perimeter signage and three ribbon boards. The North Stand has three levels of signage while the single-tier South Stand has just the lowest perimeter system. There are four bespoke main LED video displays inside the stadium bowl totalling more than 1,000 square metres.
Corporate clients can work with in-house designers to fit out their hospitality boxes and can choose from four different base model designs. The club provides power, data and screens to save partners having to bring generators into the building.
The stadium’s general concourse and premium areas are home to nearly 2,000 IPTVs while there are two giant screens in the South Stand atrium area each measuring 325 sq. m – the largest stadium screens in Western Europe. Two further LED video displays on the South West and South East façades each measure 178.9 sq. m.
Concert hall acoustics
The sweeping 17,500-seat South stand is the centrepiece of Populous’ plans to create one of the most intimidating and atmospheric venues in football.
The architects worked with a specialist acoustic company, more accustomed to designing concert halls, to model the sound in the new arena and make sure that songs and chants reverberate.
Lee says the steep upward slope of the seating helps to keep crowd noise in, and that it was important not to have overlapping stands that would interrupt sound waves. The 5,000-capacity, home rail seating section – installed in anticipation of the reintroduction of safe standing – has been built opposite a corresponding away section to encourage the sound to bounce from one side to another.
“Really quick reverberation times and clear acoustics build the sounds so the songs and chants last longer,” says Lee. “This dialogue between home and away fans, which is a great thing about English football, is very much designed in.”
This article was changed at 17.45 on 15th April. Contrary to what we had previously reported, the debt structure for the new stadium is not dependent on qualifying for the Champions League once every four years.