Emirates Stadium: New goal for the Gunners

Engineers have made the Emirates Stadium a hit with fans and players, says Ian Liddell
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The Independent Online

Whether it's Thierry Henry unleashing a volley from 30 yards, Freddie Ljungberg tearing down the wing or manager Arsène Wenger making frantic hand gestures from the touchline, they all need one thing: a stadium to do it in. Highbury had been their home since 1913 but, like a footballer in the twilight of his career, it was starting to get past its best. A new signing was needed.

The last edition of Future looked at the the pitch's reinforced natural grass, and now this article looks at the design and engineering of the stadium.

A WINNING FORMATION

The club's aim with Emirates Stadium was to create fantastic facilities for fans and players alike. Views had to be uninterrupted from all 60,000 seats, the turf had to equal the quality of Highbury's notoriously good playing surface and the fans' experience, through creating a great atmosphere in the stands, had to be one of the very best in the Premiership. Along with these demands, the host of other services that fans require - from comfortable seating and catering to communications and crowd safety - all had to be of the highest quality.

Ensuring all these targets were met is the job of engineers. Working closely with the architects at HOK sport, Buro Happold's team of engineers spent six years developing the design to incorporate the club's requirements. Doing so within the available space, budget and the immovable deadline - the beginning of the 2006-07 Premiership season - all presented significant challenges.

For example, the Emirates Stadium site is triangular, with railway lines on two sides and housing on the third. As a result, the stadium is oval so that it can fit snugly into the triangle, pushed right up into the sharp end. A bigger, rectangular design would just not have fit.

Similarly, the local council put a 34m limit on the height of the stadium so the stadium bowl is very compact, sitting comparatively low among the surrounding housing. Arsenal's new home is almost hidden until you cross a footbridge and arrive at the raised plaza surrounding it.

THE PERFECT PITCH

One of the most striking and distinctive features of Emirates Stadium is its inward-sloping roof, which serves several purposes. As well as providing cover and good views with no obstructions for fans, the downward slope helps to trap the roar of the crowd, so heightening the drama and atmosphere in the stands.

The design also aids turf growth; an ongoing problem when the pitch is enclosed by a bowl-shaped stadium. Good growth requires water, wind and sunshine in the right mix, as well as the correct soil, drainage, fertilisers and maintenance.

The factors that can be controlled by the stadium designers are sunlight and wind. In order to maximise natural light on the pitch, the roof cladding is fixed to the underside of the steelwork and, together with the downward slope, this lowers the level of the roof opening, thus maximising the amount of sky the pitch is exposed to.

Wind is admitted through areas at the corners of the pitch, beneath the roof and where the seating bowl gently slopes down; transparent sections in the roof admit light.

PLAYING THE RIGHT SYSTEM

As with all modern buildings, Emirates Stadium relies on its servicing systems, which means provisions for water and electrical supply, drainage, communications and heating.

Communication networks are of vital importance to the running of the stadium, and not just Wenger's instructions. Voice and data links are provided to all areas, as well as CCTV and public address networks using cabling stretching the 700m around the stadium. There are also TV screens in most areas to allow fans and staff inside to follow the match.

Consideration of cost is vital and all expenditure on amenities has to be fully justified. With an anticipated cost of around £390m - which includes the cost of land, planning, stadium design and connstruction, as well as relocation of local businesses and services - the stadium is a major investment. But with a great stadium and a successful team, this outlay will be recouped over time.

The design and build of a modern sports stadium is complex, requiring a large team of engineers to ensure all aspects of the building function as intended. Through some innovative engineering and effective collaboration with building contractors Sir Robert McAlpine, Emirates Stadium was completed over two weeks early. The result is a stunning new landmark structure for football.

Ian Liddell is a consultant for consulting engineering practice Buro Happold

EMIRATES STADIUM: MATHS OF THE DAY

Roof

Designed by architects HOK Sport and Buro Happold, the stadium covers 27,200 square metres with a panelled roof for uninterrupted sight lines. It is angled inwards to reduce shading and there are gaps between the top of the seating area and roof, allowing air through to help the grass grow.

Diamond Club

The Diamond Club is the most exclusive area, with 160 seats above the halfway line. A private lounge serves complimentary food and drink by Michelin two-star chef Raymond Blanc, an Arsenal fan. Members also benefit from valet parking and concierge service.

Players' area

Looking from the north-western corner, the pitch runs left to right. The dug-outs sit either side of the tunnel, with the home bench on the left, and the Arsenal dressing room behind it. The directors' box sits above the tunnel with the press box to the left.

Pitch

The pitch will be maintained by Paul Burgess, who kept Highbury's turf so immaculate. A revolutionary set of 600 lights, pioneered at PSV Eindhoven after being used to grow roses in Holland, can provide the same benefits as sunlight 24 hours a day.

Executive suite

There are 150 executive boxes above the second tier, one belonging to former player Dennis Bergkamp. Below them is the "club level" tier of 7,000 seats, with its own lifts and refreshment facilities. These and the Diamond Club will reportedly provide 43 per cent of income from ticket receipts.

By Andrew Tong

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