Fan-focused and football-ready: Tottenham Hotspur’s venue for the future

Tottenham Hotspur's executive director, Donna-Maria Cullen, discusses the impressive new stadium plans.

Fan-focused and football-ready: Tottenham Hotspur’s venue for the future

English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur plan to move into a shiny new multi-use stadium in 2018. As their executive director tells SportsPro, optimising the fan experience has been central to the plans.

When English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur outlined their proposal for a new 56,000-seater stadium in 2007, to be built on the site of their current White Hart Lane home, the renderings revealed a soccer-specific venue that would form part of the Northumberland Development Project spanning more than 20 acres in North Tottenham, London. The project was first granted planning permission from the local Haringey Council in 2011, but wranglings with local landholders Archway Sheet Metal Works over the acquisition of their land, which sits on the proposed site for the new stadium, eventually led to a case in the high court. A compulsory purchase order (CPO) was finally cleared in Tottenham’s favour in February of this year, giving the club the go ahead needed for their UK£400 million redevelopment.

In July, Tottenham announced a ten-year deal with the National Football League (NFL), and with it a brand new design for the venue. Set for completion in 2018, the new stadium designs reveal a state-of-the-art retractable grass pitch, underneath which will sit an artificial surface fit for a multitude of sports and events, including American football.

An aerial view of the club's planned new stadium in north London.

The deal will see the NFL stage at least two games per year at the club’s new stadium in north London and the new designs include capacity for dedicated facilities for both soccer and football, after the club had planning permission approved for a basement area below the proposed 61,000-capacity stadium - which will include extended player changing facilities capable of accommodating NFL teams.

In addition to the retractable pitch and increased capacity, the new project will also feature improved sightlines within the stadium, with spectators closer to the pitch than at any other comparable ground in the UK and a 17,000-seat single-tier stand at one end; wireless connectivity across the whole venue; a ‘Sky Walk’ experience for visitors to walk on top of the stadium for views across London; and a new building adjoining the stadium to house extreme sports, complete with the tallest indoor climbing wall in the world.

Speaking to SportsPro in July, Donna-Maria Cullen, Tottenham’s executive director, outlines details of the planned new venue and what it will mean for the club.

SP: The functionality and the design of the new stadium – is that something that’s been modelled on other examples?

We appointed Populous to review the designs because obviously the original scheme was consented in 2007 so it was eight years old and stadia dates very quickly, notwithstanding you get new technologies and you need to look to future-proof it and get new regulations. So we brought Populous in to have a fresh look at that design of the stadium. And they are obviously world leaders in stadium design so they were able to bring their experience to there and what would work. And we started it from the point of making it the most fantastic experience for anybody that’s actually within that stadium and then making sure it’s well connected and linked, so if you’re not in the stadium you can still be part of that experience and that’s the way stadia is generally moving now.

So one of the main scheme revisions that came out of that was the enlargement of our single tier end or ‘Kop’ style end, which will create the most amazing atmosphere and wall of sound. And then making sure that acoustically the bowl was as good as it could be. So it is all driven by what the fan experience will be like, including proximity to the pitch. Our fans will be closer to the pitch than in any comparable European stadium, significantly closer.

Was that experience that fans will be guaranteed something that encouraged the NFL to come in and form this partnership?

Certainly the design, the technology that the stadium includes, the knowing that it would be a fantastic fan experience and also the retractable pitch – they won’t have the same issue of needing to take out seating because the retractable pitch is lower, so you therefore don’t interrupt the sight lines form the first row of seats, because with the NFL as I’m sure you know you’ve got more people who stand on the touchlines and tall individuals, so sight lines are a completely different concept. So having that at a lower level means that it doesn’t impact on the seating in the bowl area.

And likewise having the extended changing facilities to accommodate for that?

Absolutely. And those are facilities that are specifically there so it’s not a case of us having to move out of ours so that they can move in. We have extra facilities which will be used by the NFL.

It’s clearly a hugely exciting time with that now on the horizon. What does that mean for the club going forward and into the future?

Well I mean we were always global by virtue of being in the EPL. I think this takes it to a different level and in terms of what we’re able to deliver in an area like Tottenham, certainly our area – this is the start of real regeneration there. So the increased capacity of the stadium and the revenue alone it generates is a game changer. But when you add these other aspects in I think we’ve got such a unique proposition. It’s the ability to come to London and see an NFL match and a Premier League match over the period of a weekend if you wanted to, but it’s also the fact that as a club we have expanded our repertoire in terms of what we will have on our site and just the sheer life and 365 days-a-year operation there, not forgetting of course music concerts. It becomes quite significant thing for music concerts because some of the existing venues are too big for certain groups or performers,  for example Wembley, and some others are too small, for example The O2. So for size and the versatility of our stadium there will be a lot of appeal for concerts.