Cardiff, Wales, UK
Concerts, Rugby, Soccer
CHALLENGE. Designing a rugby stadium for the Welsh is akin to being asked to cook a meal for a Michelin-starred chef; no group of fans in the world know as much about their sport, or are as passionate for their team. The brief from the Welsh Rugby Union to the Populous design team was to build the most atmospheric rugby stadium in the world, on an extremely tight site in the centre of Cardiff, in time for the 1999 Rugby World Cup. With the UK’s first closing roof, the resulting stadium has inspired technological innovations in venues throughout the world.
"I would love to play Principality Stadium, it’s the best stadium in the world for any purpose, the atmosphere in there is superb, the sightlines, the dimensions, it’s about as perfect as you could wish for."Bruce Dickinson / Iron Maiden
INNOVATION. The atmosphere at the Principality Stadium (previously known as the Millennium Stadium) is the result of a combination of unique design features, with the biggest factor being the retractable roof. Specially insulated to maximise its acoustic effect, the roof traps the roar of the crowd so that it reverberates around the seating bowl. The bowl itself resembles a ravine, with steep tiers surrounding the pitch, giving every seat excellent sightlines, and putting spectators right on top of the action.
"Running out for your country in front of a home fans at a packed Millennium Stadium is the best feeling ever."Leigh Halfpenny / Wales International
IMPACT. In 2013 the England rugby team travelled to the Principality Stadium for their final match of the Six Nations Championship, aiming to complete their first tournament Grand Slam in a decade. Instead, they lost 30 – 3, a score line which gave the trophy to Wales on points difference. Many commentators suggested that the young England team were overwhelmed by the intense atmosphere generated beneath the closed roof of the stadium. Even with the roof open for the Six Nations in 2015, the stadium was still recorded as the loudest venue in the tournament, with an average noise level of 92 decibels.
While primarily a venue for rugby, the Millennium Stadium’s roof allows it to serve a number of other functions. The venue has staged concerts by artists including The Rolling Stones, The Police, Neil Young and Madonna, as well as hosting championship boxing, show jumping and even the first ever indoor stage of the World Rally Championship. It is also a UEFA Category 4 football stadium, accommodating 6 FA Cup Finals while Wembley Stadium was under construction, and hosted the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Juventus.
The 73,931 capacity Principality Stadium was designed by Populous for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, when it hosted the final between France and Australia. The client’s brief was to create the most atmospheric rugby stadium in the world, a challenge made more difficult by the physical constraints of the extremely tight site in the centre of Cardiff.
In response to this brief, Populous designed the stands with incredibly steep tiers to create the effect of the fans being ‘on top’ of the pitch. The retractable roof, which was the first of its kind in Europe, is specially treated to maximise its acoustic effect, trapping the mighty roar of the Welsh crowd so that it reverberates around the ground.
The roof has become a defining feature of the stadium and famous throughout the world of rugby for the intense atmosphere that it helps to generate. Such is the success of the design, the deafening cacophony of crowd noise regularly peaks at over 100db during matches – so loud it would drown out a helicopter flying directly over the stadium.
While the stadium’s primary use is for rugby, the retractable roof also allows it to be adapted to host large-scale concerts, with the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Police, Neil Young and Madonna all playing sell-out shows at the venue in recent years. It is also a UEFA Category 4 football stadium and home of the Welsh national football team.