Football stadiums evolve to meet modern demands

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium. Image credit: Dignity 100/Shutterstock

AN architect involved in the design of some of the world’s most iconic modern football stadiums has said that stadia can no longer be built just to be used every second weekend.

It comes as Aberdeen FC and Aberdeen City Council dabble with the prospect of building the club’s new stadium to include community facilities, with chairman Dave Cormack describing the vision as ‘forward-thinking’.

In an interview with Project Scotland, Caroline Mills of Populous detailed how her work on the builds of the likes of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur’s new home, and the revamped Wembley, came with non-matchday uses in the brief.

“I feel that we can no longer just build stadiums for a match every two weeks,” Caroline explained. “I don’t see that benefiting the environment, and I don’t think it benefits the area that the stadium is in.”

The architect added that every club should approach and engage with supporters and local communities to find out their needs, in order to really integrate a new stadium into the area.

In London, Tottenham’s new football stadium is also used for NFL games. This is no mean feat, with Populous’ design featuring a retractable pitch capable of disappearing under the main stand to allow the NFL astroturf surface to take its place. Grow lights underneath the stand maintain the stored grass pitch.

With NFL matches sometimes lasting several hours, this also brings catering challenges within stadiums as a pre-match pie might not suffice!

“Certainly, the customer experience was really important (to Tottenham),” Caroline added. “The food court we created at Tottenham’s stadium can be used on non-matchdays. It’s like an extension of the high street – people want to be there; they want to get a nice pint and decent food. They don’t want to pay over the odds, but they do appreciate that they’re not going to be herded into a small space and not enjoy the experience… what is really important is the spectator’s experience at all the different levels, not just at the more expensive price points. With things like the NFL, you’ve got to stay in the stadium for a longer period of time so that food and matchday experience is incredibly important.”

Caroline is about to start work on the £80 million project to redevelop French club RC Strasbourg’s stadium, with the brief featuring modifications to the existing terraces to enable the pitch to be extended, ensuring rugby games can also be played there, as well as increased office and meeting spaces housed within an extended south stand.

As well as revealing that Aberdeen’s new stadium could feature community facilities, Dave Cormack also said at the club’s recent AGM that it ‘could’ be Europe’s first net zero ground. When asked how big a task this would be, Caroline said that it would be ‘challenging’ but possible.

“I think it would be challenging,” she said. “The embodied materiality is going to be one of the biggest issues, without direct offsetting.

“If the building was net zero post-construction… that would be phenomenal and a target that we really could look at hitting now.”