Wow it has been ages since I last did a stadium tour with my son. 8 months to be precise. It is amazing how little time you have with your second child. Now, my wife tells me that she is inviting her NCC friends for my daughter’s first birthday. The brief was concise, find something else to do with your son whilst I have a blast with my girlfriends. I didn’t need much before planning my next trip. I asked my son if he wanted to go to Wembley and within seconds of his positive response we were on our way up the M25.
Wembley Stadium is a football stadium in Wembley, London, England, which opened in 2007, on the site of the original Wembley Stadium, which was demolished from 2002–2003. The stadium hosts major football matches including home matches of the England national football team, and the FA Cup Final. The stadium is also the temporary home of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur while White Hart Lane is being demolished and their new stadium is being constructed.
Wembley Stadium is owned by the governing body of English football, the Football Association(the FA), through its subsidiary Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL). The FA headquarters are in the stadium. With 90,000 seats, it is the largest football stadium in England, the largest stadium in the UK and the second-largest stadium in Europe. Designed by Populous and Foster and Partners, it includes a partially retractable roof and the 134-metre-high (440 ft) Wembley Arch. The stadium was built by Australian firm Multiplex at a cost of £798 million (£1.09 billion today).
In addition to England home games and the FA Cup final, the stadium also hosts other major games in English football, including the season-opening FA Community Shield, the League Cup final, the FA Cup semi-finals, the Football League Trophy, the Football League play-offs, the FA Trophy, the FA Vase and the National League play-offs. A UEFA category four stadium, Wembley hosted the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League Finals, and will host both the semi-finals and final of UEFA Euro 2020. The stadium hosted the Gold medal matches at the 2012 Olympic Games football tournament. The stadium also hosts rugby league’s Challenge Cup final, NFL London Games and music concerts.
I did my first stadium tour in 96 and I must say that to date it will remain one of the most magical one in my life. I remember seeing the twin towers, the wooden blue sits and its sand pits. I also remember walking onto the pitch it what was the most beautiful stadium of all. What a mess the FA have done with the new design. Look at the below with the twin towers and its unique lightening system. I blame the idiots at the FA, the stupidity of English Heritage and brent council for this monumental cock up. Do you know how the twin towers were destroyed? Fittingly by Germans like on the pitch! The Twin Towers were the last structure of Wembley to be demolished. Preliminary demolition work started in December 2002 with the concrete crowns being removed from the top of the flagpoles. The towers were demolished in 2003 by a large Liebherr 974 crawler excavator referred to as “Goliath”, made in Germany specifically for the task. The original foundations of Watkin’s Tower were rediscovered during the demolition. The top of one of the towers was moved to be installed as a memorial at St Raphael’s Estate.
Wembley was designed by architects Foster + Partners and Populous (formally HOK Sport) and with engineers Mott Stadium Consortium, who were a collection of three structural engineering consultants in the form of Mott MacDonald, Sinclair Knight Merzand Aurecon. The design of the building services was carried out by Mott MacDonald. The construction of the stadium was managed by Australian company Multiplex and funded by Sport England, WNSL (Wembley National Stadium Limited), the Football Association, the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the London Development Agency. It is one of the most expensive stadia ever built at a cost of £798 million, and has the largest roof-covered seating capacity in the world. Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners was appointed to assist Wembley National Stadium Limited in preparing the scheme for a new stadium and to obtain planning and listed building permission for the development.
The all-seater stadium is a bowl design with a capacity of 90,000, protected from the elements by a sliding roof that does not completely enclose it. It can also be adapted as an athletic stadium by erecting a temporary platform over the lowest tier of seating. The stadium’s signature feature is a circular section lattice arch of 7 m (23 ft) internal diameter with a 315 m (1,033 ft) span, erected some 22° off true, and rising to 133 m (436 ft). It supports all the weight of the north roof and 60% of the weight of the retractable roof on the southern side. The archway is the world’s longest unsupported roof structure.
A “platform system” has been designed to convert the stadium for athletics use, but its use would decrease the stadium’s capacity to approximately 60,000. No athletics events (track and field) have taken place at the stadium, and none are scheduled. The conversion for athletics use was a condition of part of the lottery funding the stadium received, but to convert it would take weeks of work and cost millions of pounds.
Interesting facts about Wembley
- The stadium contains 2,618 toilets, more than any other venue in the world. The guide was proud of this fact!
- The stadium has a circumference of 1 km (0.62 mi).
- The bowl volume is listed at 1,139,100 m3 (1,489,900 cu yd), somewhat smaller than the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but with a greater seating capacity.
- At its peak, there were more than 3,500 construction workers on site.
- 4,000 separate piles form the foundations of the new stadium, the deepest of which is 35 m (115 ft).
- There are 56 km (35 mi) of heavy-duty power cables in the stadium.
- 90,000 m3 (120,000 cu yd) of concrete and 23,000 tonnes (25,000 short tons) of steel were used in the construction of the new stadium.
- The total length of the escalators is 400 metres (1⁄4 mi).
- The arch has a cross-sectional diameter greater than that of a cross-channel Eurostar train
Make your way on the iconic Wembley Way and behind Bobby Moore’s statute, you will find the entrance to the stadium tour. Collect your pass and you wait in the cafe. In the cafe you can admire the original FA Cup, World cup Jules Rimet’s trophy. Suspended at the top is the cross bar that Geoff Hearst so famously thrashed whilst scoring a hat trick against West Germany in 1966.
The guide picks you up and shows you a replay of that famous goal. He then asks you the question whether it crossed the line and all say yes apart from two Germans that ask for goal line technology.
We then make our way into the stands to enjoy the view. The guide asks you to shout ‘goal’ and you can hear your voice going round the stadium. The corporate boxes’s windows around the stadium were built at a 5 degree angle in order for the noise to reverberate. The very enthusiast guide then explains that the pitch is 98% natural grass with 2% injected with artificial fibres to keep it immaculate. The roof is retractable in three places west, east and north to protect fans from the rain.
We then make our way to the press conference room. Very spacious but to my displeasure full of Tottenham branding material (grrr). Nothing against Spurs but when you go to see your national stadium you expect all to be about England.
Now, we make our way to the dressing rooms. 4 in total and of equal size. There isn’t a home or away dressing room like at club level. In fact there are small but luxurious. Because Wembley is used a lot for the NFL, an NFL team made up of 53 players, take two dressing rooms (offensive and defensive) and they have to take the doors down so that they can communicate.
Onto the pitch and my son is leading the line (too right future England captain) and his first word when he sees the pitch with the background noise is ‘wow’. It is all worth it.
We then take the famous steps to the Royal box where you get your picture taken with the original FA Cup (£10). As any good tour you finish next to the megastore.
A good tour with a nice guide but the Spurs branding diminishes the magic and yes I really miss the twin towers, the wooden seats and the sand. You must move on with your time many will say, I say sod it bring the magic back!
Cost: £20 adult and £12 under 16. Free for under 5’s
Stadium architecture: 7/10
Stadium history: 4/10 (not the ground that would get 10 but the new wembley hasn’t see much yet)
Stadium tour: 7/10
Overall mark: 6/10