Initiation and Feasibility


08 min. reading time

This section highlights the many factors that influence whether a site could be suitable for a stadium development. If several sites are proposed, a suitability assessment could be undertaken to examine each of the factors for each site to establish the best option.

There are many aspects to be considered, such as the following:

The site must be adequately sized to accommodate the stadium and the required facilities around it.

An assessment will be required to ensure that all necessary planning approvals have been secured, including the impact on the local community.

The site location must be accessible for all spectators and visitors to attend matches and other events.

The site must be available, with all property and ownership issues identified.

This section examines site selection from the perspective of the stadium users and concludes with the aspects of sustainability and security that need to be factored into the selection of a stadium site.


Once it has been decided that a new stadium is required, a crucial step in the project is to identify a suitable site, and ideally one that is primed for development. It is recommended to differentiate between the following three aspects:

Appropriately sized site

A football stadium is clearly a very large building, and a site will be required that is both large enough to accommodate the physical size of the building and its construction. Adequate space should be available for the spectators to arrive, circulate and depart safely, and for any other requirements, such as parking.

The appropriate size for a site can be determined once the approximate capacity of the stadium has been decided, and key factors of the stadium design brief, such as parking requirements, have been assessed. Analysing the space required for the development of similar venues would provide a useful benchmark.

If the intention is to redevelop a stadium on the same site, analysis will be required in terms of the suitability of the site to accommodate the redeveloped stands or even a new stadium, together with the restrictions the site may place on the design of the building and/or its surroundings.

Property issues

In some cases, it may be possible for special government powers to enforce the compulsory purchase of land to provide a site for the development of a stadium.

A legal review should evaluate the applicable ownerships and whether the site has any relevant covenants in terms of restricting any future usage.

If there are any neighbouring buildings, it is important to establish whether these may have any existing rights (e.g. such as a right not to have natural light blocked). Such rights could influence the scale or massing of the stadium development.


Consideration will also need to be given to statutory planning matters that may affect whether a site is suitable for the development of a stadium.

Such constraints and opportunities could include the following:

The presence of existing buildings on neighbouring/adjoining sites that may be adversely impacted by the development of the stadium. This may prevent or have a negative impact on the suitability of the site for development purposes.

Zoning and/or classification of development land within national, regional or local plans that may restrict development at all, or restrict any kind of development to certain categories in which stadiums do not feature.

In some territories, government policy and incentives may discourage development on the edge of towns and cities to prevent urban sprawl in favour of the regeneration of former industrial sites in urban areas.

The presence of any buildings on the site that are regarded as being of historic interest and are protected by legislation, or whether the area has a heritage designation that may make the development of a stadium inappropriate or particularly challenging.


An assessment should be made as to whether the site for the stadium development is already owned by the developer, or whether land will need to be acquired for the purpose of development. Depending on the circumstances, having to acquire land may introduce delays or present cost challenges for the project.

The purchase of publicly owned land may require greater consultation and negotiation with the local, regional or national government authorities. This aspect may necessitate the inclusion of community benefits in addition to the commercial transaction.

In order to separate the financial risk of a property development from stadium operations, an individual company could be set up to manage the project. If the land required or the funder is publicly owned, it may be appropriate to create a joint venture between these public entities and private partners to build and/or operate the stadium.


Planning permission will likely be required to develop a stadium. Each territory will have a different term and procedure for this process, and exactly what is required for the specific site will need to be established at an early stage.

Outline versus detailed applications

For an entirely new stadium development, a consent in principle (sometimes referred to as an outline consent) might be obtained. This could help to establish that a stadium would be principally acceptable on the site as long as the footprint, height and capacity do not exceed certain agreed parameters.

Typically, a transport plan would be required at this stage to demonstrate how spectators are expected to travel to the venue, and what impact this may have on the existing transport infrastructure. If a project follows this route, more detailed information would have to be submitted once it becomes available and before construction starts.

When a stadium is being redeveloped on the same site, or where there are historically important buildings or structures nearby, it is more likely that a fully detailed application will need to be submitted.

The amount and type of information that will need to be submitted to gain consent varies and needs to be understood at the outset. For some projects, for example, an environmental impact assessment may need to be submitted that describes the impact of the development upon air quality, light pollution, transport, ecology, etc.

When planning permission is granted, quite often various qualifications and conditions may need to be discharged before construction begins or the stadium is occupied. The nature of these conditions vary from project to project but may include, for example, submission of various materials, assessments and/or surveys.

Heritage assets and natural environment

The stadium development may affect buildings or structures of historic or cultural value. A detailed impact analysis may be required and accompanied by negotiations with the relevant authorities.

In some territories, a separate kind of planning application will likely need to be made for these heritage assets (see Sub-Section 2.7.1). In some situations, there may also be planning requirements that relate to the natural environment, including protection of natural habitats or animal species.


The consultation process, conducted both prior to and following the application, is often key to a successful planning application. This typically involves a series of both private and public meetings.

Private meetings would be held with, for example, the planning authorities at various levels of government, as well as with accessibility and inclusion groups, transport authorities, and other sports organisations.

Public meetings, often featuring accompanying exhibitions, would be held with neighbours and other affected stakeholders. It is usually important to demonstrate how this consultation has influenced the design of the scheme or the project as a whole.

An exhibition as part of the consultation process for a new stand development at Craven Cottage, London

Building in accordance with building codes

Each territory has its own legislative frameworks that are applied to ensure that developments meet defined minimum standards. These will typically include structural design and the approach to fire safety and ventilation standards, among others.

These frameworks are likely to have been adapted to ensure accessibility across all sections of society, including disabled people and people with limited mobility, and to offer quantifiable standards for sustainability.

In some places, these standards will be part of the general planning or building permit, whereas in others it may be a stand-alone process.


When assessing whether a potential site is suitable for a stadium development project, it is important to establish whether the site will be accessible both during construction and when the stadium is expected to be in use.

Stadiums could be developed within busy urban environments as well as in suburbs or on the fringes of towns and cities.

Established football clubs often have their roots in the local community in which they were founded, and they may have played on the same ground for many generations. By their nature, these types of sites are often located within cities, where the local transport networks, including trains, roads and pedestrian routes, were not designed with a stadium in mind. In these circumstances, the transport networks often need to be upgraded to accommodate the assumed larger capacity that a new stadium development would require.

Stadiums on urban fringes tend to be more recent developments and, as a result, usually have good access to road networks. But, conversely, they may not be well served by mass transit public transport networks such as trains, and pedestrian as well as cycle routes could become challenging. Depending on the intended use of the stadium, it may also be important to review the national and international routes to the venue from further afield. This might even include airports, should the intention be to host larger national and international events.

In response to climate change, approving government authorities may want to promote the various available means of transport to plan for a more sustainable future (for example by encouraging the use of public transport).

Site accessibility
Part of the strategic planning for the Groupama Stadium in Lyon was the extension of the existing tram network out to the new stadium site.


For stadium development projects in any given region, there are likely to be government policies that promote a certain balance between public and individual transport – referred to as the “modal split”.

No matter where the stadium is proposed, a transport assessment will be required to establish how the envisaged modal split may influence the choice of site location and whether the existing transport network requires any upgrades or not. Any such transport assessment should deal with the impact of increased traffic, in whatever form, on the evaluated location and its regular traffic.

Ideally, the masterplan for the site may facilitate the shared use of public transport or car parking facilities with other functions. This helps to promote multifunctional use, irrespective of whether a matchday takes place or not.

The masterplan for the stadium site should include the vehicular routes into and within the venue to ensure its effective operations (see Section 1.4).

Construction access
A defined route to access Lusail Stadium, Qatar, during construction

Construction access

The construction of a stadium requires the delivery of large parts of the building, usually brought to the site using large vehicles, and often erected using heavy plant equipment.

Whilst high-rise urban developments prove that it is possible to erect large buildings with a surprisingly small footprint, this is a costly exercise that should ideally be avoided if possible.

The transport assessment should therefore also establish the construction works, the delivery routes, the approximate size of a construction compound (in particular for redevelopments of existing stadiums), and, for example, whether restrictions are likely to be imposed on working hours or delivery times.


The selection of the site is critical in delivering a sustainable stadium solution.

The location of a stadium should consider existing developments and how a connected masterplan can be put in place. It should also look at existing infrastructure, water and waste connections, and the availability of power and data.

The most sustainable outcome will be achieved if a new stadium can tap into an existing transport, urban development and infrastructure network. A good example of this is building a new stadium on the site of an old one, such as the redevelopment of the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

However, developing a stadium away from existing networks, for example in a new urban area, may provide a sustainable solution if the stadium forms part of a wider new development masterplan. An example of where this has been achieved is the London Stadium, which was developed in a relatively derelict part of East London as part of a wider regeneration masterplan.

Where the stadium will be situated within the selected site is also critical in delivering a sustainable development (also refer to Section 2.2).



Concrete for the floor at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was formed with aggregate from the excavations for the foundations of the new stadium, with a polished finish avoiding the need for an additional floor finish.


The single largest contributor to a stadium’s embodied carbon is the materials it is built from. When choosing a site for a sustainable stadium solution, the developer should assess which nearby sources of building material can be used in the construction of the venue.

Within this context, the selected site may contain existing structures that need to be demolished, and the developer should consider reusing any such materials in the construction of the new stadium.

The ground conditions can affect the amount of carbon in the stadium foundations. Sites requiring soil stabilisation and deep foundations will have higher embodied carbon associated with the groundworks. However, sourcing underground materials that can be used in the construction of the stadium will reduce its embodied carbon.

Designing low-carbon stadiums is discussed in detail in Sub-Section 2.7.1.


New stadiums should aim to generate as much on-site renewable energy as possible. To achieve this, the chosen site will ideally have uninterrupted solar exposure and the ability to make use of geothermal energy. Some sites might benefit from energy generated by water or wind. Generating renewable energy and storing it in batteries for matchday use will help to cut the stadium’s peak event load, which, in turn, will reduce the infrastructure requirements of the selected site.

The availability of other nearby renewable energy-generation sites should also be considered when it comes to creating a sustainable stadium solution. This will include investigating the availability of an energy supplier that could provide the site with a renewable energy supply.

Local energy-generation schemes such as combined cooling, heating and power plants are able to supply low-carbon energy. Stadium developments might incorporate these facilities if they are available or making provisions to do so if there are future plans to install them in the area.

Designing low-energy stadiums is discussed in more detail in Sub-Section 2.7.1.


A shortage of potable water is a global problem that the UN predicts will affect five billion people by 2050. Stadiums require large amounts of potable water for sanitary facilities, building and landscape maintenance, and pitch irrigation. Therefore, careful assessment of water usage is required before building a stadium in a location where water shortages are already an issue.

Watercourse pollution must be avoided during the construction, maintenance and use of a stadium. If the selected site features a watercourse, the risk of pollution must be evaluated when siting the stadium. If the site features an already polluted watercourse, the stadium developer should seek to remediate the pollution as part of the stadium development.

Remediating contaminated sites for stadium development is a positive environmental decision, but care must be taken not to pollute watercourses during the remediating process.

Designing stadiums to minimise watercourse pollution and reduce their potable water consumption is also discussed in more detail in Sub-Section 2.7.1.


The ecological value of land measures how much biodiversity it is able to support. Biodiversity refers to the amount and variety of plant and animal life on the site.

Stadiums, like all types of construction developments, should not be built on sites of high ecological value.

This includes avoiding building stadiums on greenfield sites. Sites that have previously been developed are ideal for stadium developments – these are known as brownfield sites. City-centre sites are also good locations for stadium development because they are well connected to existing transport infrastructure.

Nonetheless, it should be remembered that in choosing to build on a city-centre site, careful consideration must be given to the impact on the local area by gathering crowds and the possible need for additional transportation connections.

Stadium developments create environmental impacts that should be mitigated as much as possible by designers. These environmental impacts affect people, ecology and biodiversity, and they should be assessed when selecting the stadium site. The environmental impact of a stadium development also represents a local planning concern and will need to be discussed in consultation with the relevant local authorities (refer to Sub-Section 1.3.7).

Existing flora and fauna on the chosen site should be surveyed by an ecologist before any decisions are made about the suitability of the site and the stadium design. If the selected site, regardless of its type, has areas of high ecological value, the design team should take steps to preserve them.

Ecology and biodiversity in stadium design are discussed in more detail in Sub-Section 2.7.1.



Turning old into new. Building a new stadium for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ required the deconstruction of an old stadium. The previous stadium was carefully dismantled, its materials were sorted and segregated, and new uses were identified for its constituent parts. While some materials were sent for recycling, up to 90% was reused in the construction of the new stadium and precinct.


Soil excavated from the development site should be used, where possible, in building up or filling other areas so that only material that cannot be reused is removed from the site altogether. This will reduce the volume of waste generated by the development and, in turn, reduce the carbon footprint, air pollution and heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movement associated with the development.

Taking advantage of site opportunities can help to reduce the amount of waste created whilst the stadium is being built. This topic and how waste can be reduced in the operation and maintenance of the stadium are discussed in more detail in Sub-Section 4.2.6.


The club’s supporters, due to their sheer number, are usually the main users of a stadium and they may influence the selection of the stadium site.

User Requirements

Football supporters, much like the wider public, are likely to want to access other facilities, such as restaurants and shops, and not simply the stadium itself.

Therefore, locating a stadium in an area where such facilities already exist or are planned to open may prove attractive to visitors. A balance may need to be struck between those areas, perhaps in city-centre locations that are established and already attractive but difficult to access in larger numbers, and those areas that are much easier to access but in relatively undeveloped areas. A site within a city, but not in a central location, may prove to be the optimal location to strike this balance.

When a stadium is proposed as the home of a particular club, the needs of the club’s supporters are a high priority. It is usually far preferable, in the case of an established club, for the new stadium to be located broadly within the same area as the existing ground, if not on the same site. This is often because of the emotional connection with an area rather than merely practical considerations, such as the distance that supporters will need to travel to their club’s new stadium. It is also important to recognise that the traditional territory of rival clubs may make some locations unsuitable.

At a more detailed level, the suitability of a site might be influenced by the need to segregate home and visiting supporters, both in the immediate area outside the stadium and, in some cases, on the approaches to the stadium from transport interchanges. Similarly, the scope of the site to include parking and approaches for disabled spectators needs to be assessed to ensure that the stadium development is fully inclusive.

Where a stadium is planned to become a multi-use venue, consideration should also be given to the requirements of other sports, events and users (refer also to Section 1.7).

Complementary facilities

Most clubs will require several complementary facilities in addition to the stadium, such as administrative offices, training facilities and player accommodation. Furthermore, the inclusion of potential retail spaces, media, hospitality, and leisure facilities should be assessed.

When selecting a site, it should be decided whether these facilities need to be located on the same site as the stadium or whether they could be also located elsewhere.

Complementary facilities
Manchester City Women’s Football Club play at the Academy Stadium, which is part of a wider campus site of training, educational, residential and administrative facilities. This is close to the main Etihad Stadium (seen in the background) and the two sites are connected by a pedestrian walkway

Competition from other venues

Other important considerations when assessing the suitability of a site for a stadium development are any potential competition from but also synergies with other venues and facilities such as hotels and restaurants. These factors impact, either negatively or positively, the business plan for the venue.

A study may also need to be carried out to highlight the proximity of other stadiums and similar venues. The study should identify which events these venues currently host or plan to host, and at which times of the year these events take place.

This should help to ascertain if there are any conflicting demands for football and other sports and events. Furthermore, such a study helps the stadium to avoid any scheduling conflicts that could put a strain on public transport and the deployment of emergency services.

The study could also examine whether there are any synergies between existing facilities and the proposed new stadium. Sometimes, a critical mass of facilities is needed to attract other events. Having hotels and restaurants nearby can be beneficial to the running of the stadium.

The above studies typically form part of the market analysis as well as the business plan of the stadium, which is further introduced in Sub-Section 1.6.3.


As part of any site assessment, it is important to anticipate the local impact of a stadium development on its surrounding environment and community.

Local environment

An assessment of the stadium development’s impact on the local environment is a key consideration in the planning process as it may affect the suitability of a potential site for the project. The sheer scale and massing necessary for a stadium building means that there are likely to be visual impacts on views that may need to be assessed.

Around the stadium itself, there could be a local reduction in light levels caused by shadow from the development which may affect buildings and landscape in the vicinity. Conversely, it is important to establish whether increased light levels caused by floodlighting, external LED screens, external lighting and other sources could cause light pollution. It is also not uncommon to experience changes to local wind conditions in the areas around a stadium.

The high and long facades that are so typical of stadiums and the wide external circulation zones that surround them can affect pedestrian comfort levels. Noise impacts caused by public address systems, music played at the venue, spectators leaving and arriving, mechanical services and transport will also need to be studied.

These factors may need to be presented to approving authorities in the form of an environmental impact assessment as part of the planning process and such adverse impacts should be minimised.

At the same time, the opportunity that the development of a stadium offers in terms of improving the local environment should be thoroughly understood and appreciated. A significant amount of space around the stadium’s exterior is typically required for spectator circulation, and, in many cases, there are opportunities to create attractive landscaped areas which, in addition to providing a pleasant stadium setting, also contribute to the local environment as a whole.

Local impact
The northern end of the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, uses transparent materials and has a smaller seating tribune to mitigate the impact on light levels for nearby housing.


A stadium development can affect the local community in ways that are unique to this type of building. Some of the potential impacts in terms of light, wind and noise are discussed above.

Another significant impact is having many thousands of spectators regularly making their way to and from the stadium. This typically involves road closures to create space for crowd movement and the provision of temporary food stalls, retail outlets and toilets.

In most cases and depending on the stadium’s capacity, this may require stewarding or increased levels of policing to maintain order and tackle antisocial behaviour. Local community representatives and affected residents will likely need to be consulted at the planning stage to ensure that their views are factored into the process.

The economic benefits for the local community should also be considered at the planning stage since an increased demand is typically observed in local bars, restaurants and retail areas as a direct result of the increased number of people in the vicinity on matchdays.

It is good practice to have a permanent community engagement process in place. This will help facilitate good long-term relations and ensure that the needs of the local community are understood.


Community spaces
Local residents enjoying space for leisure outside the Bankwest Stadium, Sydney


Security issues have become increasingly challenging for stadiums in recent years as venues of all kinds have become high-profile targets for protests and terrorist attacks.

Therefore, and in order to ensure that users are not exposed to any unnecessary risks, a site security assessment should be carried out for any stadium development.

Changing nature of security threats

As well as the more traditional security risks, such as unauthorised access, vandalism, burglary and antisocial behaviour, stadium design should also take into account the risks associated with terrorism.

Stadiums are, by definition, crowded spaces where large numbers of people gather to watch an event. However, they can also be iconic national or regional monuments and attract a global audience due to the high-profile matches and events they host. They can therefore become a target for those wishing to cause harm, while trying to gain maximum exposure for their own particular causes.

At the site-selection stage, depending on the perceived level of risk, a security assessment may need to be undertaken to establish whether the site is particularly vulnerable. It may also require specific design responses to address the potential security risks associated with the site. This may require a flexible adjustment of security measures in the event of changing threat levels.

There are different levels of security threats, which the relevant national security agencies will determine and update as required. Therefore, within this local context and depending on the scale and profile of the events proposed to be hosted at the stadium, it is advisable to appoint an experienced security consultant to undertake the security assessment for the project and consult with police counter-terrorism advisers (or local equivalents) at an early stage. The assessment should recommend appropriate mitigation measures that can be used in the overall assessment of the suitability of the site.

Island site
Its location on Krestovsky Island, St Petersburg, helps to provide a natural perimeter for this stadium used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

“Island-site principle”

In some high-profile situations, it is useful to physically separate the stadium site from its immediate environment. This is known as the “island-site principle”.

By providing a clearly understood, secure perimeter, access to the site can be controlled and monitored. Whilst this involves the installation of physical barriers such as fences (or at least scope to install them on an event-by-event basis), there can be opportunities to work with existing features such as roads, rivers, buildings, structures and inclines to help create or reinforce this secure perimeter.

From the opposite viewpoint, it might be desirable to avoid sites that contain or are very close to features that would present major challenges in terms of the operation of a secure perimeter. These might include major rights of way passing through the site or transport interchanges immediately next to the stadium. Further details on the concept of a secure outer perimeter can be found in Section 5.1.

Additional security challenges in urban environments

If an urban site is preferred for a stadium development, and one that lies within particularly dense urban streets, particular attention should be paid to the additional challenges of electronic surveillance monitoring when sightlines are not clear, or where the proximity of neighbouring buildings may constitute a security risk.

In such circumstances, consideration should be given as to whether an appropriate stand-off distance should be maintained between neighbouring buildings and the stadium, or whether special temporary measures should be put in place on matchdays to protect stadium users when they are directly outside the building as well as inside.