Initiation and Feasibility


05 min. reading time

Establishing a clear vision for a stadium development is critical in laying the foundations for all of the work that lies ahead in delivering a successful project. Stadium projects can often be complex and are likely to involve significant capital investment, with the decisions taken at the beginning of the process having a major impact on the final outcome.

These projects often run over many years and involve significant numbers of people throughout the various stages of development. It is therefore important that everyone is aware of the measurable objectives and aspirations of the project.

A project should start by clearly defining the objectives of the development. The wants should be assessed against the needs of a development, which can often be a difficult balancing act. A project may struggle to find sufficient funding to cover the cost of its overall wish list of items.

A club, city or country may also come under pressure from its project sponsors or fans to deliver a significant project, which again has to be balanced against available funds.

The funding for any stadium development will also be a key early consideration in establishing a vision for the project. This includes both the initial capital cost of construction and the ongoing operational costs – bear in mind that over the whole lifespan of a stadium, the operational costs quite often significantly outweigh the capital cost. There are a variety of funding sources potentially available to a project, and this is where a business plan is required to outline adequate budgets and priorities.

Figure 1.1.1
Elements involved in establishing a vision for a stadium project

A clear vision will also be helpful to a project as consideration starts to be given to some of the options that might be available in terms of the selection of a site, the development of a masterplan, the assessment of new-build or refurbishment approaches, and the opportunities to incorporate additional uses into the overall development.


One of the first steps in any stadium development is to define the objectives for the project. This will include answering the following fundamental questions:

• What are the drivers for developing the stadium project?
• Who is likely to use the stadium?
• Who are the interested parties and stakeholders?
• How big should the stadium be?

It is important that sufficient time is allocated to make a careful and considerate call on these vital questions – the answers should be clearly laid out in the project brief, i.e. the client’s requirements document that will be drawn up for the project.

Figure 1.1.2
Drivers that help to define project objectives

Why? Drivers for Development

The drivers for a stadium development could relate to the physical facilities that may be required, or the financial and/or strategic objectives that could become important to the club, city or country involved.

Below is a list of some potential main drivers:

• Enhanced facilities – e.g. improved changing rooms and player facilities, enhanced media and broadcast facilities, improved concourse and hospitality areas for fans, enhanced
stadium management facilities, improvements to technology provision in the stadium

• Expansion of existing facilities – e.g. increase in stadium capacity, addition of a roof, increase in the number of dressing rooms, expansion of media facilities, increase in concourse facilities and hospitality provision

• Wider development strategy – e.g. other commercial activities on the site, the provision of other uses like offices and housing, and integration within a larger overall development strategy for the local area

• Financial stability – e.g. enhancing existing revenue streams and generating new forms of commercial return from the development

• Strategic – facilities that form part of a strategy for attracting and retaining players

• Competition with other stadiums – e.g. a response to facilities and attractions that may be offered by other competing stadiums in the local area

• Ability to host tournaments or other major events – e.g. setting a capacity and including sufficient facilities and space around the site to allow a stadium to host tournaments or other major events


Bankwest Stadium, Sydney

This stadium was part of a strategic development by the Government of New South Wales that aimed at expanding the sporting facilities in the western suburbs of Sydney and at providing facilities for the local professional football and rugby clubs, as well as the local community.

Who? Users

A stadium will host a wide range of users, and the needs for each of these user groups must be understood when defining the objectives for the stadium development. This will usually include a football club as the primary user of the stadium, along with a number of potential secondary users of the facilities.

The needs of visitors and customers on both event days and non-event days will also require careful consideration, along with any requirements of the local community who may have access to the stadium.

Some of the potential users are listed below:

Non-event-day users

visitors for meetings, conferences, museum/shop, attractions and other events

Primary users

football club and stadium management team


neighbours and local residents

Secondary users

other sports promoters, concert promoters and event organisers

Event-day users

players, officials, media, fans

Who? Stakeholders

A stadium is a large public building that will have a significant physical and financial impact on its local and national communities. This means that there is likely to be a wide range of stakeholders with an active interest in how the stadium will be developed and operated.

Any such stakeholder requirements will need to be taken into account when defining the objectives for the project. The following represents a list of potential stakeholders:

Local government

likely to have a very active interest in the nature of the development and will require significant consultation about the project through all stages of development

Member association

may have a high-level interest in the development of the stadium, especially in the event of envisaged national-team or continental competition matches to be played there

Local community

will be directly affected by any stadium development, and it is important that the project engages with the community early on in the process in order to minimise the potential for objections to the development

Competition owners/organisers

the organisers of the main competitions likely to be played at the stadium (e.g. a football league) may have requirements in terms of stadium facilities that will need to be accommodated within the stadium development

Supporter groups

particularly for stadiums intended for regular club use, it is advisable to engage with key supporter groups right from the start

National government

may have a high-level interest in the wider development plans, if they are of national interest

For larger stadium projects, consultation with other sports federations in addition to the member association may be required – particularly if there is an interest in bidding for future mega sport events or major football tournaments.

How Big? Scale and Capacity

Identifying the scale and capacity of a stadium development is a key driver in the early stages of any project. The project team will need to ensure that it can identify a potential site that would be large enough to accommodate the required footprint and massing. It is important that the stadium capacity meets – but does not exceed – its requirements. If a project is too ambitious in its scale and capacity, it may struggle to get funding and will be less sustainable over its life cycle.

If the stadium outlook is not ambitious enough, it may restrict its potential to meet the requirements of the club and to cope with future demands from the spectators. One option could be to design for some level of flexibility for future expansions (see Section 2.9).



This stadium was designed with flexibility to expand seating capacity and to add an integrated arena in future phases of development. The adjacent arena doubles up as additional hospitality on matchdays.


Assessing the wants against the needs of a stadium development can often be a difficult balancing act. A stadium project needs to establish the essential items that must be provided against the desirables that could be provided if sufficient funding is available.

A project may struggle to provide a large enough budget to cover the full wish list. Prioritising will therefore be a very helpful exercise to align the client’s requirements with the available budget.

A project should start with an analysis of its requirements. A business plan could be a helpful tool as it supports the thorough assessment of the impact of a “wish list” on the overall stadium dimension and scale to ensure that the project becomes economically viable.

It is important to address the short- and long-term objectives in balancing the scale of the initial stadium development as there may need to be some flexibility in terms of both floor area and seating capacity to respond to the changing situation of a club over time.

One option might be to look at the possibility of phasing a stadium development, as this could offer a means to reduce the initial expenditure while retaining the opportunity to undertake further development at a later stage when demand may justify a larger stadium and additional funding for this expansion might be available.

Other factors to consider are the changing nature of football and to try to anticipate the impact of any future trends on a stadium. One example is the change in broadcasting in recent years, which has seen an increase in the number of camera positions for broadcasters as well as an increase in the required spaces and functions for the overall media facilities within a stadium.

Figure 1.1.3
Balancing wants against needs in a stadium development


Once the objectives and needs of a project have been determined, the focus should shift towards defining the funding requirements.

It is highly important that any funding assessments include both the capital expenditure (capex) costs of construction as well as the ongoing costs relating to the operating expenses (opex) of a stadium. The assessment should also take into consideration any financing costs linked to the project’s funding model.

These costs will need to be assessed against the potential revenues that a stadium is predicted to generate as well as against any further information that may be available.

The stadium owner(s), i.e. representatives of the funders, will want to undertake regular financial reviews throughout the stadium development process. These reviews facilitate regular checks that the project remains on schedule, or lead to discussions around changes in the funding that may be required.

Stadium projects are likely to either be financed by a publicly funded initiative, by a privately funded initiative, or by a mixture of both.

Figure 1.1.4
Examples of funding models for a stadium development

Public Funding

Governmental funding at local, regional and/or country level

e.g. the government has established the need for a new stadium and is prepared to (co-) fund it as part of a local, regional or national strategy.

Blended Funding

Mixed/blended funding

e.g. the public funder(s) and private partner(s) (e.g. club) agree to share the costs of the stadium development.

Private-public partnership (PPP)

e.g. a commercial developer agrees to fund the development of a stadium, and a city authority or club agrees to pay an appropriate annual rental fee for the regular use of the stadium.

Private Funding

Commercial deals

e.g. the sale of naming rights and other sponsorship agreements may partially contribute to the funding of a stadium development.

Owner Funding

e.g. the owner of a club fully funds a stadium development with their own resources.

Cross-funding from associated mixed-use development

e.g. revenues from the multi-use of a stadium finance the stadium development in the long run.

Private bank funding

e.g. a private bank structures the funding for a stadium development, usually in the form of a bank loan.

The financing costs associated with the funding model for the stadium development should be considered when decisions are taken about raising capital for the project. Otherwise, the terms of repayment could place a significant burden on the stadium owner in the longer term.

Last but not least, a review of the building’s life-cycle costs is important to identify any cost-saving measures as early as the design stage – in particular, as any successful project would aim at a sound balance between short-term savings on construction costs and longer-term opex costs.

Further details on analysing the project’s feasibility are introduced in Section 1.6.


A stadium project will need to look at a number of options when an initial strategy for development is being drawn up.

The early stages of a stadium project can include testing a series of site development options, including for immediate and future needs. This approach helps to ensure that the scale and nature of a development can be understood from the beginning.

This includes checking how the project will interface with surrounding developments and looking at opportunities to unlock a wider mixed-use development that could improve the commercial viability of the overall project (refer to Section 1.4).

The options are described in more detail in subsequent sections and include the following:

Different Sites

A stadium project should factor in alternative sites. Each site option will offer different strengths and weaknesses that might respond in a better way to meet the key objectives, needs and envisaged funding of the project.

There may be issues with availability or restrictions on development that could also represent a barrier to the project, and it is also important to consider permissions and approvals (see Section 1.3).


Allianz Field

The stadium in Minnesota represents an example of a stadium development that was privately financed, including funding from naming rights and other sponsorship deals, cross-funding from adjacent mixed-use development, along with public funding for some of the site infrastructure.

New build/redevelopment/refurbishment

A project should assess different approaches to stadium development. One could build a new stadium or redevelop or refurbish an existing one. There may be cost and logistical implications associated with new-build or redevelopment options that could influence the final strategy, along with heritage issues that might be important to the local authority or fans.

A project may also seek to compare the costs and benefits resulting from a single phase of development in comparison to a rolling programme of “stand-by-stand” renewal (see Section 1.6).

Stadium Expansion
The South Stand at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester was redeveloped as part of a phased approach to increasing capacity.


Consideration should be given to developing the stadium for single or multiple users. This aspect will have a significant impact on the design of the facility.

A project may look at opportunities to stage other sports inside the stadium or to host other events on the field of play. Any such analysis should also include the ability to host conferences and other events, which would also require a higher degree of flexibility inside the stadium (refer to Section 1.7).