Populous Transforms London Stadium to Host Inaugural MLB London Series
June 28, 2019
London Stadium, Populous-designed and one of the world’s most iconic venues, is famous for hosting the 2012 London Olympic Games, international best-selling artists, concerts, three matches during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and is now the home ground for the English Premier League’s West Ham United. This week, the stadium will transform once again, when two teams with one of the most heated rivalries in sport, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, face off for the first-ever MLB London Series. The two-game series on June 29 and 30 will make history as the first time MLB regular season games are hosted in Europe.
MLB’s event brief to Populous proposed a unique challenge for the inaugural London Series as the stadium needed to undergo a dramatic, and temporary, transformation in order to turn London Stadium into a state-of-the-art ballpark and offer a world-class baseball experience for players and fans.
With an extensive resume from 36 years of experience planning some of the world’s largest, most iconic events like the Olympics, Super Bowl, the NFL International Series and working with the MLB for more than 21 years on events like the MLB All-Star Game, the Populous event team was excited and ready to take on the challenge.
Presented with the task of taking “America’s favorite pastime” and transporting that unique experience across the Atlantic, the Populous team explored many options during an extensive stadium flexibility study to uncover the best way to deliver a state-of-the-art baseball experience for players and fans at London Stadium in only three weeks’ time.
“We’re taking the sport of baseball, it’s history and iconic traditions and bringing it to London for the first time in the stadium that hosted the 2012 Olympics,” said Todd Barnes, Senior Event Architect and Senior Principal at Populous. “We are transforming a former Olympic stadium to fit a ballpark and all of its layers, which required us to diversify our thinking. We will deliver the best possible experience to new fans of the game as well as those who have been following MLB for years.”
In just 21 days of preparation, here’s what was needed to bring MLB overseas for its first-ever international games: 5,000 seats were added in left and right field to bring the fans closer to the action and create a more traditional ballpark experience, over 141,900 square feet of artificial turf was imported from France, over 350 field wall pads and around 340 tons of infield clay were shipped from the U.S. and over 400 meters of fencing was installed around the stadium. The task of designing a baseball-specific venue also included the installation of a batter’s eye, backstop, batting cages, dugouts and temporary clubhouses for players.
On the global stage, MLB London Series draws together Populous’ event expertise from around the world to collaborate on the temporary design, the event operations, security and wayfinding, before and during the series. The international series ultimately brings the unique live MLB experience to the international stage in London, and there are no better two teams to share the stage than those with the most historic and exciting rivalry story to share.