The NFL comes to Tottenham

Sunday 6th October marks the unveiling of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium as the UK’s first dedicated NFL venue.

Image: Buro Happold

As part of a 10-year partnership deal with the league, the club will host at least two American football fixtures each season. This inaugural showdown pits the Chicago Bears against the Oakland Raiders; the following week will see the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is apt that the Bears are at Tottenham to mark this exciting new era for the sport, as 33 years ago – with a roster featuring 330-pound folk hero William “The Refrigerator” Perry – they beat the Dallas Cowboys by 17 points to six in the first-ever NFL game staged on British soil.

A vital component of Tottenham’s vision for their magnificent new stadium was to bring the NFL to north London by incorporating an uncompromised American Football capability. Crucial to Buro Happold’s contribution has been engineering innovation and the use of long span structures. Such ingenuity included eliminating 40% of the columns to provide open concourses and hospitality spaces. We also managed to slide a 70m x 110m turf pitch under 17,500 people while controlling the structural dynamics.

The sliding pitch is the first in the world to have a full grass surface that splits into three parts before rolling away beneath the stands. When NFL games are hosted at a typical football ground, players standing on the sidelines obstruct spectator views from the lower rows so hundreds of seats cannot be sold. This is not a problem at Tottenham, where a dedicated NFL field under the retractable pitch sits 1.5m below the first row of seating. As well as providing optimum sightlines, the seating capacity is identical for football and NFL games. The entire “pitch switching” process takes just 25 minutes.

Image: Buro Happold

“It was such a massive challenge in the first place to create a stand that seats 17,500 people,” says Rob Amphlett, Buro Happold’s UK head of Sport and Entertainment. “We were then challenged further by Daniel Levy [chairman of Tottenham Hotspur], who wanted to bring the NFL in, so we needed to include a sliding pitch. The only place for that pitch to slide was under the stand with 17,500 people sat over the top. The key innovation to make the sliding pitch a possibility was to split it into three. This was a fantastic project to be a part of.”

In other Tottenham news, on 1 October the stadium was named Project of the Year at 2019’s Structural Steel Design Awards.

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