A Whole New Ball Game: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Raises Bar for Multi-Purpose Venues

April 17, 2019

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium also provides a world-class home for NFL in the UK  


Tottenham Hotspur Stadium pioneers a ground-breaking new stadium design concept, creating a bespoke environment for association football and American football with purpose-built facilities tailored to meet the specific requirements of each sport.

In a landmark agreement between the NFL and a UK football club, the stadium will play host to a minimum of two NFL games per season for the next 10 years, in addition to around 25 Tottenham Hotspur home games.

“This partnership with the NFL has enabled us to push the boundaries of stadium design,” said Daniel Levy, Chairman of Tottenham Hotspur. “It is something that has never been done before anywhere in the world.”

There are a number of key differences between a typical NFL stadium and UK football stadiums, which presented Populous’ architects with a unique set of challenges to overcome in response to Mr Levy’s vision for the new stadium. “Our brief was to not only design the perfect atmospheric and authentic home for the club for the next century, but also to revolutionise modern stadium design in creating a stadium where multiple professional football codes could play in a bespoke environment,” explains Christopher Lee, Populous EMEA Managing Director and Project Director for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

  • POPULOUS_Tottenham_Hotspur_Stadium_Retractable_Pitch_2
    Each section of the retractable pitch system is driven by 68 powerful electric motors and rolls along the rails on 168 wheels
  • POPULOUS_Tottenham_Hotspur_Stadium_Retractable_Pitch
    The turf sits in three enormous steel trays each weighing more than 3,000 tonnes

The UK’s first two-pitch stadium

The most significant of these challenges was to provide a suitable playing surface for both sports. To do this, Populous collaborated with engineering firm SCX to create a revolutionary new retractable pitch system, which sees the natural turf pitch split into three sections, each weighing more than 3,000 tonnes, before rolling underneath the South Stand to reveal an artificial playing surface several metres underneath. Cooling and irrigation systems together with special lights that mimic sunlight keep the grass alive and help it to grow while underneath the stand.

From start to finish, the process of retracting the pitch takes just 25 minutes. This enables the stadium to transition quickly between modes, delivering NFL games and large-scale events such as concerts without compromising the quality of the football pitch. The setup also provides improved sightlines for NFL spectators in the front rows of seating by raising the height of the stands relative to pitch-level.

  • Tottenham Hotspur New Stadium sightlines
    By sliding out the football pitch sightlines for NFL spectators are improved

Made to measure

To further enhance the stadium’s suitability for hosting NFL matches, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium features purposed-designed locker rooms for NFL teams. The NFL ‘home’ team locker facility also includes a separate media room for pre- and post-game press conferences, while the NFL away team has access to the main soccer media centre within the stadium.

NFL UK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood believes that bespoke facilities such as these are integral to making NFL teams feel comfortable playing in the UK. “They have to feel they’ve been given a good competitive chance of playing well”, he told ESPN. “If teams felt it wasn’t a good experience you’d find it very difficult to get other teams to come over.”

But it’s not just the players who enjoy a bespoke matchday experience at the stadium. NFL fans can access large viewing areas in the East Tunnel Club that overlook the teams’ entrance, and there are plans for traditional ‘tailgating’ parties to be held locally.

With the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, NFL has found a home in the UK for many years to come.

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