Ground-Breaking Retractable Pitch Makes Premier League Debut for Tottenham Hotspur

02nd April 2019

Sheffield engineering specialist SCX is building up to a key fixture in its 46-year history – the opening Premier League match on its world-first dividing retractable pitch, pioneered for Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium.

 

Inside view of Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium

 

SCX will see the pitch it designed, engineered and installed being used for the game between Spurs and Crystal Palace on Wednesday, April 3.

The first Premier League match follows the successful testing of SCX’s pitch and two test event games at the new 62,000-seater stadium.

The grass surface, which can be rolled back to reveal a bespoke NFL pitch below, is the result of the unmatched level of vision and expertise of SCX Special Projects, the bespoke engineering arm of the SCX group.

Its integration into the stadium will bring new commercial opportunities to Tottenham Hotspur for decades to come, and a world-class bespoke home for the club and its fans.

The innovative system means the venue can be used for music concerts and other events in addition to regular football matches and NFL games.

SCX’s projects director, Danny Pickard, said it was one of the company’s biggest projects, and one of the quickest in terms of delivery timescales.

“It has been a phenomenal success, equal to what we have achieved with the retractable roofs for Centre Court and No.1 Court for the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon, and within a very tight timescale,” he said.

“The Tottenham pitch went from being perceived as the highest risk part of the project – with all the moving parts, the turf joins and an engineering concept that had not been tried before – to something neither we nor the client had to worry about.

“It’s fantastic. Everything was completed on time despite the huge scale of the project, and communication has been the key. We have a really great client in Spurs.”

The retractable real grass surface splits into three pitch-long steel trays. When the trays slide together, the join is invisible and imperceptible to the players. The trays, weighing more than 3,000 tonnes each, can be rolled under the new South Stand to reveal the NFL artificial surface in a process taking about 25 minutes.

The mechanical tests included the sideways movement of the side trays to meet the centre tray, the defining feature that makes the pitch a world first. Teams of electrical, mechanical and design engineers from SCX Special Projects, based in Wincobank, Sheffield, were on hand.

Nick Cooper, Head of Moving Structures at Tottenham Hotspur, said: “It worked first time exactly how we wanted it to work.”

Christopher Lee, managing director of Populous’ EMEA, said the brief was to design a perfect stadium and pitch for the English Premier League alongside the perfect stadium and pitch for the NFL.

Many options were considered to deal with the challenge arising from the totally different sizes of the pitches and sightlines.

“Ultimately, it was a Swiss Army knife idea, that you could fold out the different fields that you needed depending on the code,” Mr Lee added.

The Premier League fixture follows two ground safety test events with reduced stadium capacities - an Under-18 match and, last Saturday (March 30), a legends game between Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan.