That’s entertainment: a new era of multipurpose stadiums

That’s entertainment: a new era of multipurpose stadiums

Bambos Eracleous, Partner for Sports, Media & Entertainment, on big football clubs reimagining their stadiums as multi-use entertainment destinations.

At the end of last year, I wrote a piece outlining some big trends in Sports to watch out for in 2024. One of these was the rise of the ‘experience economy' in Sports which is being driven by twin forces. Fans want a better in-stadium experience and Sports teams, especially big football clubs, are seeking to maximise their stadium assets by turning them into multi-purpose venues able to tap into new opportunities that generate revenue year-round.

As I noted in that trends piece, Sports no longer sits in its own world. It has become part of the wider Media & Entertainment ecosystem, a key component of broader cultural entertainment. And for those clubs that get their off-the-field entertainment offer pitch perfect, there is serious money to be made.  

Gratifyingly, in January the FT echoed some of these points in a piece on clubs racing to transform their venues into entertainment destinations under the headline ‘The European football clubs turning stadiums into cash cows’. Many have cast an envious eye across the Atlantic where owners of US sports franchises have enjoyed greats success developing multipurpose venue models. Some on an epic scale involving high-risk real estate speculation.

NFL team the Los Angeles Rams’ sparkling new 70,000-capacity SoFi stadium, an indoor/outdoor venue which will host the Super Bowl in 2027, is a hugely impressive sports and entertainment destination. But it is only one part of a 298-acre Hollywood Park mixed use site which “also boasts an artificial lake, a 6,000-seat theatre and space for millions of square feet of offices, hotels, shops, restaurants and apartments.” 

While development on such a vast scale is generally unfeasible in Europe, there is still plenty of room for ambition to be realised. And of course, with an influx of international investment in recent years, some of those looking to transform stadiums into flexible assets at the heart of mixed-use, experience economy destinations have already been involved in similar projects in North America. 

A few European teams have also made great strides in adopting this model. Tottenham Hotspur FC has enjoyed a surge in non-football revenue since its new stadium, designed to create diversified sources of income, opened in 2019.

Figures for the year to 30 June 2023, announced in April this year, showed a 24% rise in commercial revenues to almost £228 million. The club identified NFL, boxing, rugby and music concerts as major contributors to its non-football revenues. Beyoncé, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Wizkid were among the artists to play the stadium – a line-up unthinkable at the old White Hart Lane stadium, demolished at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Harry Kane may have moved to Munich, but in his place is the excitement of the chicane – with Tottenham Hotspur Stadium playing host to karting on F1-inspired circuits via an offer catering to “all ages and skill levels”. While the “Market Place” created to work for a range of different events features street-food inspired stalls and Europe’s longest bar.

In Spain, La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have added an experience economy edge to their intense rivalry. Madrid’s new £1.5 billion Santiago Bernabeu stadium is on course for inauguration in January 2025 and like Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will stage concerts, NFL games and provide an array of other entertainment options. Its cost is projected to be paid off in 2053!

Barcelona has had to wrestle with numerous financing and planning issues to get the construction of its new Camp Nou stadium under way, but its Espai Barça project is being positioned as the largest and most innovative sports and entertainment space in the centre of a major European city. The hope is that the team will be able to play in the new stadium by the end of 2024, utilising two-thirds of its planned 105,000-seat capacity, with full capacity available from 2025.

But back to the UK, where several EPL clubs have ambitious plans too. Manchester City, recently installed as Premier League champions for the fourth season in a row, is hard at work on the expansion of its Etihad stadium with a view to creating a new entertainment destination, including a 3,000-capacity fan zone, 400-bed hotel, new club shop and a museum, sky bar and stadium roof walk. City Football Group is also a joint venture partner in Co-op Live, the UK’s largest indoor arena, which despite its initial teething troubles will likely be an important entertainment venue for decades to come.   

Manchester United, in recent times often overshadowed by its “noisy neighbours” (in Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous words), has set up a taskforce to look at redeveloping the Old Trafford area, with a new “national stadium for the north” the centrepiece of the regeneration. The taskforce includes ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville who numbers property development among his business interests, metro mayor Andy Burnham and Lord Coe, organising mastermind of the London Olympics.

Elsewhere, Brighton is pushing ahead with pioneering plans for a purpose-built stadium for its women’s team; while despite Birmingham City’s final-day relegation from the Championship following a turbulent season, its American owners plan to create a “Sports Quarter” on a recently purchased site.

As football clubs embrace the experience economy they will need to tap into talent with high-level skills across infrastructure projects, commercial partnerships and venue management. Many of these roles are project based or have a fixed term spanning the life of a venue build or a phase of their development and launch. If you’d like to discuss interim requirements of this kind, please get in touch.


No comments have yet been posted, be the first to comment by using the form below:

Add your comment

You are currently offline. Some pages or content may fail to load.