With the Northumberland Development Project underway, we are continuing a weekly series that highlights details from the new stadium plans, which are freely and publicly available on the Haringey Borough Online Planning Services website. We're calling this series "NDP Dispatches." Here's the latest entry.
Daniel Levy's ambitions to provide a new stadium for Tottenham Hotspur F.C. has not come without hardship. From haggling with local businesses, to the dreaded murmurs of the Olympic Stadium bid, the process has been about as easy as a Russian winter.
Yet Spurs' notoriously shrewd chairman has come away with a coup of a deal that comes with a caveat; Tottenham will share their new grounds with the NFL. Details of the agreement have not been fully disclosed, but what is certain is that the NFL will host two games, per season, for the next ten years at Spurs' new home. As such, the goliaths that comprise an American football team need their own pitch to demolish. Enter the sliding pitch:
The introduction of a sliding pitch to the stadium design is a key element in accommodating both sports within the venue. It enables a natural turf surface to be provided for soccer and a separate artificial turf surface to be provided for NFL and other uses, which will allow both sports to co-exist without any issues associated with the quality of the playing surface.
Among the most substantial of concerns when envisioning the NFL's ground-share with Spurs was the basic, yet vital, task of maintaining an immaculate grass surface for the Lilywhites. The destruction that an NFL team can impose on a natural surface, even for one game, is considerable. That Spurs are avoiding this predicament is a mammoth relief, but also a necessary response. There is a hesitancy among certain parts of Spurs supporters when breaching the subject of the NFL's involvement in Tottenham's future. Sharing the same pitch as America's most popular sport would only give credence to that paranoia.
The new stadium has been designed for multi-use, including a structurally engineered fully retractable pitch - the first for any stadium in the UK - to ensure that the football playing surface is always in peak condition.
Situated on top of the artificial turf, the sliding pitch structure allows three distinct features that benefit Tottenham. The first, as stated above, is that Spurs will always play on a pristine grass field. The second, deals with eliminating any distractions that could ensue in the build-up to an NFL game. The artificial field can be personalized, without interfering with the daily operations of Tottenham Hotspur, thus the transition to and from a full soccer stadium should be seamless. Lastly, the fact that the grass field lies on top of the NFL's field, allows for optimal viewing for both NFL and Spurs' supporters.
Underneath the grass field will be a synthetic grass surface that would be used for NFL games and other events. This innovative solution also allows greater flexibility in the scheduling of games, reducing the set up time required to prepare the ground for other events.
The seating bowl has also been designed to enable excellent sightlines to be achieved for the different formats of football and the NFL, without having to screen off rows of seats at the front of the lower tier, maintaining an excellent atmosphere for all sports and events.
Integrating the NFL to supplement Spurs' incredibly expensive stadium bill was always smart; to see that extra attention is being paid to ensure the integrity of Spurs' pitch is even more comforting. Yet the NFL's involvement might have another silver lining. Eighty percent of NFL fans in Europe are based outside of London and "American football" fans constitute forty-nine percent of the US population. These are huge figures, especially the latter numbers. With soccer growing in America at a healthy clip, it cannot hurt to have Tottenham Hotspur F.C. integrated into the American vernacular.
That said, the sliding pitch is novel within itself. There simply aren't that many examples of retractable fields out there, and even fewer (perhaps none), that breakdown into three separate sections. Spurs' new stadium's greatest contemporary is the University of Phoenix Stadium; the home of the Arizona Cardinals, Fiesta Bowl, and every couple years, the Super Bowl. When comparing this venue to Spurs, the key variation is that this field can be completely removed from the stadium. With the wear and tear of American Football, officials wanted the ability to replace the field with a completely new patch of turf for marquee games. Spurs situation is a bit different.
The turf soccer pitch sits in three trays which separate and then slide into a parked position below the south stand and southern podium. In order for this to be possible and for the artificial pitch, including run offs to be accommodated three rows at the front of the south stand are removed in NFL mode. This has been taken account of within the stadium capacity figures outlined elsewhere
Whereas the retractable pitch slides out of the University of Phoenix Stadium, Spurs field is sent directly underneath the seats. There is also the deviation that Tottenham's field actually breaks down into three sections. The field will be broken down from endline to endline, creating a trifecta of long segments. As illustrated in the graph below, the pitch will initially stretch itself out into three divisions. The top or eastern part of the field will begin to move first, followed by the bottom or western section, culminating in the central portion making way for the south stand. While footballers tend to rip up grass surfaces less than their American counterparts, the mobility of the field, and the fact that its core will be divided, means that the moving pitch, theoretically, will be easier to manicure than a stationary one. That the field is tailored to break down, equates to a turf that can be replaced more easily and a pitch that will be groomed more often. In many ways, its a great situation for field optimization.
The final note on this section is a bit comedic. It was highly amusing to read a distinctly British document (the Haringey Council planning application) and see their use of two words: soccer and football. In nearly every instance football referred to "American football" or the NFL, while soccer referred to, well, football. This, for me, was a direct rebuke to all of the omniscient European football fans (and the snooty American ones too!) that I have encountered over the years. After decades worth of insecurity when using soccer to describe football, I am now remiss of any shame I once felt. Thank you NDP!