In recent months, huge progress has been made on the Spurs stadium project.
Key approvals have been gained, allowing construction to hit maximum pace. The stadium, as the timelapse video for May shows, is starting to emerge from the ground. An agreement has been reached for Spurs to play at Wembley in 2017/18, and Champions League games will also be played at the national stadium next season. Demolition work has started on the northeast corner of the ground.
By the final match of next season, the new stadium will be starting to emerge out of the old one, and the future of the club will be visible for all to see.
It will also look as weird as all hell, as this video from @ACEinBEDFORD shows.
It was a small thing, but I particularly liked how Spurs have added club logos to the giant cranes on site. To me, this bodes extremely well for the final finish of the stadium, and highlights the attention to detail in the planning phase. Spurs will be spending hundreds of millions on the stadium, but sometimes it is the tiniest of details that make the biggest difference when it comes to making a new “house” feel like a home.
In this update, I will discuss timeline, project finances and the NFL, and also provide some additional details of the project in terms of final capacity, colours, pitch and in-stadium connectivity.
You can read my previous reporting on the stadium here.
Attention to detail
While the club is doing a good job providing images, videos and updates on construction, there is really no end to the amount of information Spurs fans want.
I put a few questions to the club about the minutiae of the project, and to their great credit, a club spokesman gave me some answers
First, I asked about the final capacity of New White Hart Lane. In the planning documents, the “gross total” of all seats is 61,461, or 61,131 if you strip out seats allocated to media and players. However, this total was done before Mace, the construction contractor, had done its assessment. Are there any revisions to this number?
A club spokesman said the final seating number was not yet decided, but would be close to the 61,461 number.
“The capacity of the stadium will be approximately 61,000 and the exact figure continues to move slightly as we refine the detailed design, although we shall operate within the tested capacity established through the planning process,” the spokesman said.
My second question was about the pitch. The playing surface at White Hart Lane has been excellent for many years, greatly helping attractive football.
How were Spurs going to go about finding a new pitch, and were there plans in place to ensure an equally good playing surface and to avoid the issues Wembley experienced in its early years? Would it be hybrid or grass?
The spokesman confirmed the club was currently working on this issue and carrying out testing of various playing surfaces.
“We currently use a hybrid surface at White Hart Lane and we are in the process of examining and testing a number of different systems to ensure we achieve the highest possible quality surface at our new stadium,” the spokesman said.
My third question was a pretty basic one, but I’m not sure I’ve actually seen it confirmed beyond the mock-up images: What colour are the seats going to be? Will they be the “royal” blue currently at White Hart Lane, or will it be a switch to a “navy” blue?
“We shall be using traditional Spurs colours,” the spokesman said.
So there you have it.
Fourth, I asked about atmosphere, and specifically if there were any stadiums, for example the wonderful (and Populous designed) Grande Stade de Lyon, that Spurs/Populous are “learning from” in the design.
“Atmosphere has always been at the heart of our designs and we have studied some of the finest stadia in Europe best known for this,” the spokesman said. “We are looking at all aspects in terms of how we can create and retain an incredible atmosphere including the distance of the pitch from the stands, the tightness of the bowl and the introduction of a single tier south stand.”
Finally, I asked about connectivity. Much play gets made of how technology such as in-stadium wifi is incorporated into these projects, but, to be brutally honest, it doesn’t always work as well as intended. Would the club outsource this sort of technical aspect?
“We are working hard to ensure we deliver on our desire to make this stadium one of the most technologically advanced in Europe. We are currently in discussion with specialist contractors,” the spokesman said. “Technologies are updated continuously so we shall look to future proof too.”
It is no secret that the timetable for this project is tight, and minutes published by the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust of a meeting with club executives last month confirmed this.
Mace, the company overseeing construction, is now working 15 hour days, seven days per week. According to Daniel Levy, construction is on schedule, “but it remains a hugely complex project.”
Levy confirmed that Spurs had requested two matches at the end of the 2016/17 be played away from White Hart Lane to give more time for demolition and construction. This isn’t quite the “last resort”, as a block of fixtures could also be requested away from New WHL at the start of 2018/19 season. But it shows just how tight it is that every bit of extra time is being sought.
The club has announced a Wembley deal for 2017/18, but reading between the lines of reports into the deal, a “second-year option” has in all probability been discussed in case of delays. And with approvals still needed for associated works, and the myriad logistical challenges that come with building a 61,000 capacity stadium in a dense part of North London, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that delays are possible.
I’m sure if you zoomed in on the webcams on site you’d see Kevin McCloud wandering around, as this is the ultimate episode of “Grand Designs”. And you know if you watch the programme, the contractors never deliver the bloody glass on time.
The good news for Spurs, in terms of Wembley availability, is that Chelsea appear quite bogged down in their plans for redeveloping Stamford Bridge. As I reported in April, Chelsea have yet to secure key consents and will have to go through another public consultation due to changes to the design.
Money and Naming Rights
In the minutes published by THST, Daniel Levy provided an update on the financial side of the project. He confirmed that the amount invested so far had risen to £150 million.
Meanwhile, contrary to ITK chatter, naming rights have not yet been put to market, but will be “shortly”.
It will be fascinating to see what Spurs can achieve in this regard. Personally, given the way the club is falling behind the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal in commercial deals, I’d be cautious in expecting too high a figure. However, with the upswing in on-field performance and exciting homegrown core of players, not to mention the NFL tie-in, Spurs should be a far better commercial proposition now than in recent seasons.
A concern of mine is that Spurs may seek to bridge any gap in funding by simply piling up more debt on what will already be a pretty large load — £350 million has been promised by banks. In the minutes, Levy addressed this concern, loosely, noting he was “aware of the level of debt the Club could sustain and there were lots of options open at this point.”
Levy also hinted at the possible structuring of the stadium from an ownership perspective, with the establishment of an SPV (a special purpose vehicle, which sounds more like something you need to get across the construction site than a financial arrangement).
According to filings with Companies House, Spurs registered two companies recently which point to such a structure: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Development Limited (April 26) and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Limited (April 27).
There are no details on these companies yet, but nonetheless, it indicates that the financial and legal structuring is also being put in place alongside the steel and concrete.
Spurs and the NFL
I wrote in detail recently about the NFL and how its plans for a team in London appear to be kicking into a higher gear.
In writing this story, I learned from an NFL UK source that the NFL is having regular meetings and conversations with Spurs through the construction phase, and feels “fully engaged”. The relationship between the NFL and the UK was characterised as “excellent” and “ongoing”.
This is hardly revelatory, but nonetheless I thought it was interesting that the NFL remains involved. No doubt, the NFL is keen to ensure the facilities for American football — the retractable pitch, the locker rooms and media facilities — are installed to specification.
This is a “first of its kind” project in the UK, meaning a lack of local expertise, so it is understandable the NFL is keeping a close eye that, for example, the artificial turf is the correct sort.
Thanks for reading. I welcome any comments, and please give me a follow on Twitter for more Spurs and stadium chat. The video is by Asil Purcell, proprietor of Visualhorizon3D. You can see more of his work here: http://www.vh3d.com