Opening and Commissioning


03 min. reading time

Before a stadium is officially opened to the public for the first time, the stadium must be fully tested and commissioned. Test events must have been successfully held and all statutory approvals, licences and permits required must be in place.

Testing, commissioning and the organisation of test events is a one-off process prior to the official opening of the stadium. Statutory approvals, licences and permits require regular renewal, usually every year.


Testing and commissioning is a crucial activity to be carried out at the end of the construction phase of the project and prior to the opening of the stadium. Commissioning is a formal contractual activity between the stadium owner and the construction company. Its primary objective is to ensure that all systems and components of the stadium building are designed, installed, constructed and tested according to the operational requirements of the owner, operator and/or user. This also includes all statutory requirements and all required certifications of installations, systems and equipment.

Testing is an important element of the commissioning process in order to test, trial, adjust, optimise and prove that all systems and components meet the operational requirements and relevant standards for certification.

The process of testing and commissioning is agreed and approved between the stadium owner and construction company in the stadium commissioning plan. This process, which depending on its size and the complexity of the stadium building may take several weeks or even months to complete, is led by the construction company, and is overseen by the owner, the operator and specialist consultants appointed by the owner and/or operator.

The outcome of the commissioning process is a checklist with all items which have passed or failed this formal approval process, including the records of the outcome of all relevant tests.

Testing and commissioning encompass all components and systems of the stadium and include, amongst others, the following:

• General quality of construction works and building elements
• Surfaces and finishes
• All life-safety systems
• All mechanical, electrical and plumbing installations
• Structural elements, such as barriers; and
• The pitch, including all installations

Upon completion of the testing and commissioning process, with a formal sign-off by both parties, the ownership of and responsibility for the stadium building is formally transferred from the construction company to the stadium owner, and the warranty period starts. Instructions on the operation of the building and its systems will then be provided. The handover of this information will be formalised with a set of operations and maintenance manuals, which will explain the safe and most efficient usage of the building and its components.

This means that the stadium owner is responsible, from that point on, for meeting all statutory requirements and maintaining the relevant insurance cover.

A limited capacity test event at the Maracanã Stadium, Brazil


Once the process of testing and commissioning has been successfully completed and the ownership of the stadium has been transferred to the stadium owner, the stadium should still not be considered ready to host events and/or be opened to the public.

To ensure that the stadium operator as well as all staff are fully familiar with the stadium building and all operating policies and procedures, in particular all safety management procedures, it is crucial that a series of test events are held prior to the first official event. The objectives are to:

• test all systems under real conditions and under full load; and

• familiarise and train all staff in line with operating policies and procedures under real conditions;

• obtain lessons learnt from operating the stadium under “controlled conditions” before the real opening of the stadium.

• test, evaluate and optimise the operating procedures;

The staging of test events should be organised in close consultation with the licensing authority and could require their permission as the final safety certificate will not have been issued at this stage.

A detailed plan for staging a series of test events, with incremental attendances building up to full capacity, should be prepared. This plan should describe the areas of the stadium in use during each test event, the number of spectators present, which organisational procedures and/or installations will be monitored in particular, how these will be monitored, and who will evaluate these. A more detailed overview of areas to be monitored during test events can be found in the SGSA’s Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (6th Edition).

This series of test events is also referred to as the soft opening of the stadium.

After the series of test events has been successfully completed and the stadium licence has been granted, the real or hard opening of the stadium can take place. Sometimes, this festive moment is celebrated with an opening ceremony or event.

During the operations phase of the stadium, the operational policies and procedures will require further refinement and optimisation based on the ongoing experience with organising matches and events.


In order for the stadium to become operational and to open its doors for spectators, statutory approvals and specific licences and permits usually need to be granted by the relevant (local) authorities.

The stadium safety certificate is the single most important statutory approval required for allowing spectators into the stadium building. The format and procedure for obtaining a safety certificate varies from country to country. A safety certificate sets the permitted capacity for a stadium, combined with the detailed conditions and requirements with which the stadium operator has to comply. It covers all areas to which spectators have access, such as stands, tiers and concourses, as well as enclosed areas such as bars, lounges and skyboxes, and also sets the permitted capacity for these areas.

It must be noted that the conditions under which a safety certificate is issued could include conditions with regard to the physical infrastructure of the stadium as well as the capabilities of the stadium safety management.

For details on the calculation of the permitted capacity, refer to Sub-Section 2.3.4.

Depending on the stadium capacity and besides the safety certificate, a range of other licences and permits might be required by the relevant authorities for operating the stadium:

• Permit for outdoor hawking of food and drinks

• Environmental permit, defining restrictions and conditions regarding the environmental impact of the stadium during regular use, such as noise, air and light pollution, waste reduction and separation, wastewater treatment, minimum parking facilities to be maintained, etc.

• Permit for outdoor advertising

• Event-specific permits, e.g. for organising a concert, which are usually an add-on to the environmental permit, and which could set the latest closing time, external noise levels, etc.

• Permit for outdoor food and drink terraces

• Food vendor licence, allowing the preparation and/or sale of food products

• Alcohol licence, allowing the sale of alcoholic drinks (and sometimes the type of alcoholic drinks) in specific stadium areas

All of the above licences would normally include a set of conditions with which the stadium operator must comply, including the certification of specific systems, installations and pieces of equipment (see Section 4.5). In many cases, a licensing fee might be applicable.

In addition to the above statutory approvals, sports governing bodies such as the confederation, member association or domestic football league may also have specific licensing requirements for the use of the stadium for official matches. These could include a minimum level of facilities to be provided for players, officials, VIPs, broadcast journalists and media representatives, as well as the minimum specifications for certain technical installations such as access control systems or floodlighting installations (floodlight certificate).

It is the task, and legal responsibility, of the stadium operator to ensure that the stadium complies with all statutory approvals, licences and permits required at all times, and that the conditions under which these are issued are met.