Etihad Stadium Expansion and Tunnel Club

Manchester, England, United Kingdom

CHALLENGE. Manchester City is a football club known for looking after its supporters’ best interests, as well as those of the wider community around their home ground in East Manchester. At £299, their season ticket is the cheapest in the Premier League, which ensures that top flight football remains affordable for fans of all backgrounds. However, this low cost has also attracted a lengthy waiting list. To keep their matches as accessible as possible it became necessary for the club to develop a strategy for expanding their home ground, Etihad Stadium. The club was also keen to optimise all of the spaces available to them within the ground. The Tunnel Club at Manchester City is the first of its kind in UK football and has been developed alongside enhanced player areas. The brief for the project was to redevelop the Colin Bell Stand at the Etihad Stadium to create modern new player facilities and new hospitality areas.


INNOVATION. Working closely with Manchester City, Populous conceived a phased development that would cause minimum disruption during the football season, allowing the team to continue playing at the Etihad throughout construction of the South Stand. The first phase of the project began in March 2014 and saw the South Stand expand by 6,000 seats in time for the start of the 2015/16 Premier League season. This initial phase included three extra rows of seats pitch side, adding a further 1,600 to the overall capacity. In addition to the increase in size, the expanded design includes improvements to the hospitality facilities, new corporate suites, and developments of the land surrounding the stadium taking inspiration from the tailgate parties seen in the NFL, bringing a new dimension to the English game which will heighten the spectator experience.

The Tunnel Club and Players’ Areas also required significant design innovation. By remodelling the underutilised space within the Colin Bell Stand, space was created for three floors delivering two levels of premium quality lounge space on the mezzanine floor as well as improved, contemporary player changing facilities, warm up areas and enhanced match day operations facilities. The new home team player facilities are designed to the highest standard, including a circular changing room and hydrotherapy pools.

"A most impressive response to tricky engineering challenges that resulted in a stadium expansion with minimal spectator disruption and a complementary architectural form. A clever and seamless intervention in a geometrically complex cable net structure."

Judge / Structural Awards 2017

IMPACT. The Etihad Stadium South Stand expansion respects the identity of the original City of Manchester Stadium, utilising the same masts and tensioned cable net roof structure that make the building such a recognisable landmark, with additions to the external structure that complement the existing façade. The most noticeable difference is the use of internal stairs, rather than the original vertical circulation ramps, providing views out from the concourse and new hospitality spaces which would otherwise have been obscured.

From the stunning setting of the Tunnel Club, fans can enjoy panoramic views across the stadium, and feel the match day atmosphere begin to build ahead of the game. The new space adds multiple opportunities for the club’s hospitality team, with a full match day schedule, and a unique space to use for the rest of the year.

Services Provided

Populous was commissioned in 2014 to undertake the expansion of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. In order that the club could continue playing at the stadium throughout the duration of the works, the design team devised a phased development programme that saw 6,000 extra seats added to the South Stand in time for the start of the 2015/16 season including 1,600 at pitch side, bringing fans closer to the action than ever before.  

Populous’ scheme utilised the stadium’s existing masts and cable net roof structure to preserve the venue’s iconic profile, with additions to the South Stand external elevation integrated seamlessly with the building façade.  

The external works also included the development of land surrounding the stadium, with Populous drawing on its vast experience in designing American football venues to create spaces inspired by the ‘tailgate’ parties seen in the NFL, where fans can gather before and after matches.  

Interior Design

Alongside work to expand the capacity at Etihad Stadium, Populous was asked by the club to re-imagine the hospitality offer and corporate suites within the Colin Bell Stand, as well as upgrading the facilities for the players. By remodelling underutilised space within the building, our specialist interior design team was able to create two new levels of premium quality lounge spanning three floors.  

 The players’ facilities including the home team changing room, warm up areas and match day operations facilities were re-designed to meet the highest standards for elite teams, with a new, more inclusive circular seating configuration in the changing room and hydrotherapy pools for muscle recovery. 

Populous’ centre piece for the stadium’s enhanced hospitality offer is the Tunnel Club – the first of its kind in the UK – which allows hospitality and lounge guests a behind-the-scenes view of the players’ tunnel. 


Structural Awards, Award for Sport or Leisure Structures
Structural Steel Design Awards
Project Team
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Mike Trice

Charlie Fordham