1.5 Project Plan
Initiation and Feasibility


04 min. reading time

At the very start of any stadium project, it is important that the intended objectives and scope, as well as the approach to be adopted by the project team to achieve them, are clearly defined.


Based on the agreed vision (why?) of the stadium project (see Section 1.1), the project plan describes the “what, who and when” of the project at a high level:

• What is the intended outcome/result of the stadium project and what are the key components?
• Who will be involved and what are their roles and responsibilities?
• When will the project be completed and what are the key milestones?

The project plan forms the baseline for the delivery of the stadium project and should be agreed and approved by the project sponsor and between the project team and the key project stakeholders. It represents the basis for the project management of the stadium delivery, leading the team to achieve predefined goals and meet success criteria within a specified time and to an established budget.

In the project plan development and subsequent project phases, several project management methodologies may be used. This guideline is approached from a generic and overarching perspective, taking into consideration different elements of these methodologies that are key for the stadium development process.


The project plan typically contains the following sections:

• Level of stadium ambition and objectives
• Project scope, key components, subprojects and exclusions
• Project schedule, project phasing and schedule management (time)
• Project budget and financial management (money)
• Project requirements and quality management (quality)
• Project information, documentation and communication management (information)
• Project organisation, stakeholder and resource management (organisation)
• Risk management procedures
• Change management procedures

The project plan provides the baseline to oversee the project in terms of time, budget, quality, organisation and information as well as to manage risks and changes throughout the process.


The project plan is a dynamic document. It is important to update it on a regular basis, and at least at the end of each project phase. Each project can be split up into the following project phases:

1. Initiation (or idea or vision) phase: the stage at which the idea for the stadium is conceptualised, the stadium vision (or project charter) is established and project authorisation is obtained

2. Definition phase: the phase in which the outcome and requirements (what is needed to meet the project vision and objectives?) are described in order to establish the scope of the project. During this phase, the feasibility study, business plan and the user or employer’s requirements for the project are prepared

3. Design phase: during this phase, the stadium is designed on the basis of the user requirements prepared in the previous phase (how does the proposed design meet the user requirements defined in the previous phase?)

4. Preparation phase: during this phase, the site and construction plans are established (how is the design going to be realised?)

5. Construction phase: the actual construction of the stadium

6. Operation phase: the operations and maintenance of the stadium. Usually this is a 30- to 50-year period

Figure 1.5.1
Project development phases and main deliverables

Figure 1.5.1 shows the six project phases. At the end of each phase, the outcome of the main activities completed during the phase should be evaluated with regard to time, money, quality, information, organisation and risk.

• Information

Information in this context means the process of informing the various project stakeholders, including the distribution of information, document control and the preparation of decision documents. Communication refers to the organised delivery of relevant project information to external parties.

• Time

Time refers to the agreed project completion date and the key milestones and critical path to meet it. This is usually displayed through a project schedule in the form of a Gantt chart.

• Organisation

Organisation relates to the organisational structure, the individual roles and responsibilities and the way they cooperate within the project. This not only includes the project team but also external stakeholders, such as licensing authorities and their approval procedures.

• Money

Money refers to the agreed and approved project budget, with a breakdown across the various project components or key activities. This project budget is provided in the capital expenditure (capex) overview of the project. In a more specific sense, money also refers to the projected operational income and expenditure of the project (see also Section 1.6 and Sub-Section 3.2.5).

• Risk

Risk refers to the identification, mitigation and management of risks throughout the project (see Sub-Section 1.5.5).

• Quality

Quality refers to the requirements and standards defined at the start of the project. Information on quality is contained in the project user requirements (also called the “programme of requirements”; see Sub-Section 1.5.4).

A clear decision on whether to start the next phase or not needs to be taken and, if so, under which conditions, also taking the project risks into account. This may require an update to the project plan and adjustments to any individual aspects such as the time, money, quality, information, organisation and risk of the project. Any such changes would need to be agreed and approved by all relevant stakeholders.

The time, money and quality aspects of the project are interrelated. For example, a delay in the project can be offset by allocating extra resources, which will lead to increased budgetary requirements. Likewise, it is often tempting to lower quality standards in the event that the budget is under pressure. However, such decisions must always be made in light of the business plan, as explained in Section 1.6.

Figure 1.5.2
Simplified Gantt chart with key milestones and critical path (orange)


It is crucial to understand that stadium projects do not start with a design, but with a good understanding of what will be needed to make the stadium a success.

The definition phase is therefore extremely important as it sets the financial parameters for the long-term success of the stadium and defines which requirements are essential to achieving the project objectives.

Initially, the stadium business plan, which aims to ensure the successful operation of the stadium during its lifetime, defines functional, organisational, spatial and technical requirements. These requirements are subsequently visualised in the initial concept design for the stadium.

Once these are aligned, they form the basis for both the design and construction of the physical stadium infrastructure, as well as the development of the stadium’s operational organisation.

These early phases often take a long time to complete and sometimes require many iterations. However, it is important to get them right. In those cases where they are not properly set up, projects often fail at the beginning and not at the end.

Figure 1.5.3
Development of a well-balanced project definition


The preparation of a robust set of user or “employer” requirements (or programme of requirements) is the foundation of the project, both for the design and construction of the venue as well as for the set-up of the stadium operations.

This is the key document which outlines the quality standards for the project, offering a detailed description of the way the stadium should function and operate in order to meet the objectives laid out in the business plan. As such, it represents the basis of the stadium design.

Based on the type of use as per the business plan, all user groups are identified, and their requirements are drafted on functional, spatial and technical levels. These requirements should include the internal (user) requirements as well as any regulatory or statutory requirements and other external requirements. These may include, for instance, those set out by the relevant member association or league (see Figure 1.5.4).

Figure 1.5.4
Development of user requirements


Risk is the possibility of something negative happening to a stadium project or project plans, or more specifically, the effect of uncertainty on the project objectives. Risk management forms an integral and important element of the project plan.

It is crucial to identify and quantify risks as much as possible and as early as possible within a project. There may be many causes of uncertainty and risk: financial, (geo)political, (socio)economic, legal, environmental, climatological, technical, etc., all of which could adversely affect the stadium project. In the case of stadiums, sporting risks such as relegation should also be considered.

In some cases, it is impossible to quantify or even identify all risks (the so-called known unknowns or even unknown unknowns).

Figure 1.5.5
Illustrative example of a dynamic risk register

Risk management is not a one-time activity as it involves the ongoing identification, evaluation and prioritisation of risks, followed by coordinated measures to monitor, minimise, mitigate and/or control the impact of those risks. The latter is also referred to as risk mitigation.

An important risk management tool is a dynamic risk register, which forms part of the project plan and is updated on a regular or ongoing basis.

The dynamic risk register lists all identified risks, sometimes also classified per threat. It also assesses the probability and impact of the risk, as well as the key mitigation measure(s) for each risk. The overall risk level is calculated by taking the probability and multiplying it by the risk impact. By using colour coding, it is easy to filter out the higher risks.