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 the 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 each year for the next 10 years, in addition to around 25 Tottenham Hotspur home games per season.

“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.

  • The sliding pitch divides into three sections each weighing more than 3,000 tonnes
  • Driven by 68 powerful electric motors, each section rolls along rails on 168 wheels
  • The sections are retracted under the South Stand, where grow lights and environmental control systems keep the grass healthy

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. Climate control systems and grow lights ensure the grass remains healthy 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 grass pitch. The setup also provides spectators in the first few rows of seats with perfect sightlines for American football, raising the height of the stands relative to the pitch-level and, therefore, allowing them to see over the players and staff standing along the touchlines during games.

  • 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 multi-use credentials, separate facilities for football and NFL players are also provided including locker rooms and recovery facilities. 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 dedicated stadium entrance for the teams – 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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