2.9 Future-proofing


06 min. reading time

When reviewing how a stadium might grow and develop over time, there are two forms of change that can be considered:

• Temporary expansion – which is traditionally designed to be a reversible change using the concept of overlay, which is also considered in Sub-Section 2.9.3

• Permanent expansion – which is designed to be a permanent change – this represents the main focus of Sub-Section 2.9.1

This provision is often associated with the temporary expansion of facilities for a major tournament or event, where a temporary increase in capacity of the seating bowl and other facilities like media and hospitality can only be justified for a one-off event. These “overlay facilities” are then removed after the event to leave the existing stadium infrastructure operating as before.

However, we also look at modular design in Sub-Section 2.9.2, which can be applied to achieve both permanent and temporary expansion.

Finally, we also consider clean-site principles in Sub-Section 2.9.4, which maximise the flexibility of the branding and look and feel of a stadium site. This is particularly useful if the stadium will be used for multiple competitions or events.


The Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England was opened in 1997 with a capacity of 42,000. A second tier was added to the North Stand three years later which increased the capacity 49,000. The stadium’s design allows for the further expansion of other stands.


One important aspect in the detailed design of a stadium is to consider the aspirations for future-proofing the design to allow for growth and development over time. This could include things like increasing the capacity of the seating bowl, changing hospitality concepts, modifications to the players’ areas, enhancement of spectator facilities and upgrades to the MEP systems in the building. This can also help to extend the economic lifetime of the stadium.

If flexibility is not incorporated into the initial design and construction, then these changes and modifications can be both difficult and expensive to retrofit in the future.

The requirements for potential future growth should also be considered when selecting a site, including the incorporation of flexible spaces within the overall masterplan that can allow for future growth and adaption beyond the stadium footprint (see Sections 1.3 and 1.4).

Stadium MK
Upper-tier terracing was installed in phase 1.

Stadium MK
Seating and concourse fit-out was undertaken during phase 2

Permanent expansion will be much easier to facilitate if the initial design makes allowances for adaptation and increases in loading to the primary structure and foundations. This can include items such as the use of the following elements:

• Drywall partition systems – enabling easier internal remodelling and spatial reorganisation than solid wall construction

• Large-span structure – minimising the number of columns used in the primary frame and obstructions to internal space

• Knock-out panels – which can be incorporated into the walls and floors to enable future installation of additional cores, staircases, lifts and escalators

• Stronger foundations and primary structure – incorporating additional load capacity for future expansion

• Overprovision of utilities – which can provide additional capacity in utilities to service the requirements of future growth

• Sections of removable facade – providing easy access for future construction works and installation of additional MEP plant

• Flexible IT backbone – which can accommodate a range of IT systems and can support future growth and changes in IT infrastructure

• Future fit-out space – where shell and core areas are left unoccupied in the initial development to provide internal space for future expansion

• Oversized MEP plant rooms – providing open space for future expansion of the MEP plant and systems

Designing in flexibility to expand the capacity of the seating bowl should be considered in the initial design, as this could have a significant impact on the facade and roof of the stadium, as well as the building footprint and internal spaces underneath the terracing.

Typical shell and core space (awaiting future fit-out)


Changes in technology and IT systems should also be considered, given the rapid change and development in these systems. It will be important to try and anticipate the impact of these changes in the initial planning of the stadium development, so it may be helpful to seek input from IT specialists in trying to future-proof the initial design.

There will be a need to balance the extent to which additional spaces and flexibility are designed into the initial construction, as they are likely to add both footprint and cost to the initial construction budget. However, a failure to provide flexibility in the design can lead to constraints in the ability of a stadium to grow over time and significant costs in any future retrofit and redevelopment works.

Temporary works might sometimes be used while permanent works are being designed and implemented. This might be appropriate in situations where a club moves up into a higher league or regulations change and a rapid change to the stadium infrastructure is required in a time period that cannot be achieved with permanent works. A phased approach to the transition between temporary works and permanent works in this scenario can provide a smooth path for the growth and development of a stadium.

Lusail Stadium, Qatar
One of six FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ stadiums that will have upper-tier seating removed after the tournament


Modular structures are common solutions in the sporting events industry as they afford a much greater level of flexibility when compared to standard construction design.

Modular design refers to the design of initial or permanent stadium structures that can later be modified, e.g. in order to temporarily or permanently increase or decrease capacity. The aim is to reduce costs (both capex and opex), to increase the short-term flexibility and efficient use of a stadium, and to avoid waste associated with permanently constructing structures and systems which will not be required for the majority of a stadium’s lifecycle.

Modular design thinking is particularly valuable if:

• the full life-time usage profile of a new stadium is not fully known at the time of design and construction;
• there are aspirations to host major events at the stadium, which would demand capacity and other functionality beyond the normal and majority needs of the stadium; or
• the incentive to build or redevelop a stadium is for a single specific event, which will demand higher capacity and bigger dimensions than is subsequently needed.

There are different ways to approach the design of modular stadiums:

• Fully demountable stadium with a festival-style approach, installed in iconic locations and dismantled after the tournament
• Semi-permanent stadium installed using modular elements such as scaffolding seating stands and/or custom-made steel structures

Modular design can be considered to enhance and/or reduce the capacity of a permanent stadium.



Stadium 974 in Qatar is a 40,000 seater stadium entirely created from modular elements (using almost 1,000 shipping containers) for use at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. The whole stadium will be dismantled after the tournament and re-purposed both within the football community and on non-sporting projects.

For example, temporary seating stands could be used to increase the overall seating capacity of a stadium if the existing configuration permits.

By allowing seating to only be in place for the period it is actually required or used, unnecessary maintenance costs can be saved. Six of the stadiums hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 have been designed to allow for the upper tier of seating to be dismantled after the tournament. The space vacated will be used for other commercial and community functions. The seating will be re-used within the global football community.

As with other forms of future-proofing, modular structures will benefit from consideration at the design stage. For example, one section of the stadium could be “easily” demountable, for example using modular concrete elements that could be removed without having to demolish/damage any structural elements.



This stadium in São Paulo was completely redeveloped for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, in such a way that the end stands could be temporarily extended from permanent stands in order to meet tournament capacity requirements. The extension stands were subsequently removed after the tournament.


Overlay is the temporary installation, enhancement or adaptation of spaces for the purposes of a specific event.

Overlay infrastructure may include temporary seating, tents, cabins, containers, fencing and barriers, scaffolding, exhibition equipment, a wide range of technical installations, trackways as well as the adaptation, extension and/or conversion of existing facilities.

Extending and enhancing existing facilities

Large events such as the FIFA World Cup require the provision of substantial broadcast and media facilities due to the global profile of the event. For these purposes, it is normal that existing facilities such as media tribunes or broadcast compounds are significantly extended by the installation of overlay.

It is good practice to plan in advance the extension of key areas, such as media tribunes. This can be achieved by allowing for a fast and easy removal of stadium seating, leaving space for additional media desk positions and easy access to additional power/IT connections. Broadcast compound areas can be located in an area without infrastructure constraints and surrounded by a relocatable fence line.

Additional media tribune positions created by overlay structures

Repurposing existing space

Many existing spaces can be used for a different purpose in tournament mode, for example a hospitality space can become a media working area.

This can be facilitated by designing flexible spaces with an open layout. A containment system that allows for multiple internal set-ups will be beneficial when re-configuration is required to service specific events.

Creating new spaces by installing temporary structures

For the FIFA World Cup, large hospitality villages are required to service the various programmes. These are delivered by the installation of large tented structures.

Overlay structures
An outdoor hospitality village at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

Designing and planning for overlay spaces and services

Detailed overlay requirements are specific to each tournament or event. However, some generic planning of spaces and services can be factored into the design of a stadium and greatly enhance the ability to deliver overlay as required. This will ensure that overlay structures complement permanent structures and it is likely to achieve operational efficiency and cost savings over a stadium lifecycle.

It is therefore recommended:

• to build for regular uses of the stadium and adapt with overlay for any extra events or tournament

• to maintain a good level of agility and flexibility to take advantage of opportunities on a case-by-case basis

• to pre-build the underlying infrastructure needed to enable all likely and envisaged overlay infrastructure e.g.:

  • Groundwork for future overlay installation locations (such as a large broadcast compound and outdoor hospitality areas)

  • Second perimeter and access channelling systems

  • Infrastructure, technical and mechanical elements including conduit trenching

  • Room configurations

  • Appropriate landscaping

• to leave as much space allocation flexibility as possible

Space planning is the starting point for the flexible provision of overlay. Designing the surrounding areas of a stadium with this in mind will benefit future installations, for example establishing in advance where the hospitality villages and fan zones will be located.


Once potential overlay spaces have been identified, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems which will service them can also be designed to accommodate overlay.

Overlay structures will most likely need additional power, IT, water and waste connections. Consideration should also be given to pre-installing underground ducting and other cable/service routes to reach those areas.

In some cases, it can be effective to use permanent stadium service supplies as the “sources” or “input and output connections” for temporary service systems. For example:

• connecting temporary system outputs directly into permanent sewer and rain/greywater drainage systems (rather than installing temporary tank or bag systems requiring manual pump-in and pump-out).

• using the stadium electrical system as the power source for overlay electrical systems (rather than creating a completely independent system with dedicated sources such as diesel generators and earth mats);

• connecting the input of temporary plumbing systems into existing stadium fresh water supplies;

With this in mind, it can be highly beneficial to apply modular stadium design thinking to the building services of a stadium as well as the structures. At relatively low additional cost, stadium and precinct building services can be designed to easily accommodate future/possible temporary extension.

Temporary electrical systems are routinely employed at major sporting events. These systems normally use robust “plug and play” type distribution and equipment and cabling in order to bring power to places where it is not permanently present, or to provide the increased levels of power resiliency and redundancy which an event requires.

Utilising a stadium’s existing grid/utility power as the primary source for both permanent and temporary infrastructure is often desirable, as well as more sustainable, cost-efficient and suitable than using a temporary power source. Although temporary generation of power is possible (e.g. using diesel generators as the source for an additional system of electrical distribution), it is often not desirable.

Thought should be given to building permanent stadium electrical systems so that they can be extended and augmented with temporary electrical infrastructure, or adapted to a stadium’s changing circumstances in future. This may take the form of the following:

• Car parks being provided with bulk power supply connections as “event boards”, outlet boxes, pillars or single outlets (which may later serve as broadcast compounds or hospitality areas during a large event, or accommodate markets and small-scale public events)

• Overhead capacity being planned in the stadium’s electrical supply

• Pitch perimeter being provided with multiple strategically placed and sized power supply connections (for event-specific uses such as enhanced press/photo positions, pitch maintenance equipment such as grow lights, or non-sporting stadium events such as concerts)

• Automatic or manual transfer switches included in a stadium’s electrical supplies, or locations planned for their later temporary/permanent addition

• Catwalks/areas at height being provided with multiple strategically placed and sized power supply connections (which may have event-specific uses such as camera positions)

• Spare circuits planned at all levels of the stadium’s low voltage distribution network (whether or not circuit breakers are initially installed, or simply physical space allowed)

• Large rooms and multi-use spaces being provided with additional power supply capacity, and possibly spare circuits and outlets within those spaces (as they may be temporarily used in a more power-intensive manner during a major event)

• Circuit terminations provided at strategic locations to act as “hook-in points” for temporary overlay power systems. For example: media tribune and media workroom areas (which may be added or increased for major event use)

When such features are well planned and successfully designed into a stadium electrical system, their costs can be relatively low. They offer flexibility for later use, significant event-related cost savings, as well as presentational and sustainability benefits over complete reliance on temporary generation. Such provision is often a wise investment.


The clean-site principle refers to the concept of ensuring the stadium and surrounding precinct is devoid of any potentially competing third-party commercial naming rights, advertising, logos or branding. The clean-site principle is usually applied to certain events or matches where exclusivity has been given to the event organisers or rights holders, allowing them to maintain exclusivity for their own brands and those of partners.

Clean site
An electronic menu board allows changes to be made to branding at a food and beverage concession.

When designing the stadium and any other facilities within the precinct, consideration should be given to the fact that branding and logos may need to be covered or removed for certain events or matches. Examples of methods in which this can be achieved are:

• Ensuring that any branding or logos can be easily removed or covered when required
• Avoiding the use of permanent installations for branding or logos which may be difficult to remove
• Utilising electronic systems or specific systems for displaying brands and logos which can be changed to that of the relevant organiser or rights holder at minimal cost

Specific areas within the stadium and precinct where the clean-site principle should be given careful consideration include:

• Main entrances
• Facades on the stadium exterior
• Inside the stadium bowl (advertising boards, upper-tier facades)
• Players’ tunnel
• Media areas (such as the press conference room)
• Hospitality, VIP and VVIP entrances and lounges
• Food and beverage concessions
• Any retail units which may be constructed within the precinct
• Any other area which may receive significant broadcast coverage

The profile of the event or match will normally dictate the extent of the clean-site principle which needs to be implemented. Normal retail or commercial operations may need to cease for the specific event/match and this should also be factored into agreements with the operators of these units. In addition, stadium or precinct naming rights agreements may need to cease for the event/match in question.