By Andrew Warshaw
April 3 – It’s been a long and at times infuriatingly frustrating time coming, especially for the fans.
But after 18 years in the planning and a six-month delay in completion because of all manner of logistical and planning issues, Tottenham Hotspur finally open their £1 billion state-of-the-art 62,000-capacity stadium tonight, currently the second largest club stadium in the country after Old Trafford.
Following two test events, Tottenham take on Crystal Palace for a landmark Premier League game following almost two seasons of having to use the national stadium at Wembley as the club’s hugely unpopular temporary home.
Built on virtually the same site – unlike many new builds – as their former iconic White Hart Lane ground, the gleaming, innovative Tottenham Hotspur stadium features a retractable pitch which will also be used for NFL matches, the longest continuous bar in Europe at 65 metres, an on-site microbrewery and a commemorative plaque where the centre spot at the old ground used to be.
The new ground, almost double the size of the previous one, is also the first in the country to not accept cash, with 878 card payment points around the stadium whilst one end of the stadium features the biggest monitor screens in Western Europe. Acoustic experts have designed the entire stadium, with its steeply banked seating, to try and deliver a unique atmosphere, with fans as close to the pitch as possible.
At a media launch this week, Tottenham’s usually low-key, media-shunning chairman Daniel Levy could not disguise his excitement.
“I think we’ve created the infrastructure here to become one of the biggest clubs in the world,” said Levy who denied that Spurs have fallen into the trap of having put all their eggs in one basket of a world-class facility with little or no money left to strengthen their squad.
“The stadium was financed privately by the club and by a combination of club revenues and supporting banks. In terms of the payback, it’s over the long term. This stadium will be here for way past the lives of any of us and we see increased revenue streams not just from the core football club, but also the other activities that will be taking place on non-match day. You can’t be a big club in a 36,000 stadium but you can be in a 62,000 stadium.”
Tottenham’s new stadium is part of a much-lauded wider redevelopment of what has long been a deprived area, with over 2,500 jobs being created. Arguably their biggest problem will be making sure their revolutionary new home plays host to a team strong enough to challenge for honours.
Ironically, Tottenham’s first game in the stadium co-incides with one of their worst runs since manager Mauricio Pochettino took charge, with just one point from their last five league games.
But having successfully managed to keep the club in the Champions League places despite having not spent any money in either of the last two transfer windows, Pochettino hopes the new ground will inspire his players to secure a top four finish.
And after that? “We need to think like a big club and that is the most important step that we need to make,” Pochettino told reporters as he outlined his vision for what he described as the end of a five-project and the start of the next.
“We need to close the chapter. The magnitude of the club has grown 100 times. We cannot operate in the same way as five years ago. We are in another dimension. Before, you could say: ‘Yeah, but the stadium only holds 36,000.’ Now, there is no point in thinking like a small club.
“It’s a stadium to be in every season of the Champions League; every season being a real contender and fighting for big things. This is my idea and we will see if we can deliver it.”
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