My heroes, my dreams, and my future lay in Yankee Stadium. And they can’t take that away from me.

For thousands of years, sporting events have rallied supporters behind the monumental walls of sporting arenas. From ancient times, through to the modern day, these structures have provided a place where fans can demonise their sporting rivals, or worship their athletic heroes.

In the modern era, these arenas continue to occupy a significant place in the imagination of sports fans around the world. The stadium’s architecture – a point of congregation and spectacle, continues to exert a huge impact on both the experience and atmosphere of a sporting event.

Nowadays, the sports stadium is faced with a new set of challenges – the ability to meet design expectations in the face of space constraints whilst also maintaining a steady flow of revenue. Speaking with Tom Jones, Senior Principal to renowned design firm Populous we discuss how elements of physical design come together to create an emotional response.


TOM JONES, Senior Principal, Populous

Creating a sense of drama as you enter into the seating bowl is a key part of the occasion.

The iconic Yankee Stadium, home to the New York Yankees, Bronx, New York

The physical design of a Stadium can have a key influence on a game’s outcome. This is where the buzz of the crowd is important in building up match-day atmosphere.  Creating an amazing atmosphere in a stadium is always one of the key discussions at the beginning of each project, as it is critical to the success of a venue. Players talk about how some stadia can inspire them and lead to enhanced performance levels. This in turn can amplify the response from the fans.  Sometimes this can be based on the reputation of a venue, such as Lords Cricket Ground. Lord’s is seen by cricketers as the ‘home of cricket’. The seating bowl is the special place where players and fans mix in the cauldron of a sporting occasion.

TOM JONES, Senior Principal, Populous

We always look to get the crowd as close to the action as possible.


Atmosphere design starts with locating the front row of seats as tight to the touchline as we can. We then look at balancing the horizontal distance and vertical height for the rest of the spectators, so that fans at the back of the stands still feel engaged with the action on the pitch.

Players always respond well to a stadium that generates a passionate atmosphere and environment from the fans attending a match.” 

Acoustics are another key factor in allowing songs and music to reverberate around the arena, requiring a careful handling of surface materials. The use of other audio/visual equipment, including the big screens and lighting effects increase the match-day atmosphere.


(Left: A packed crowd seated above the home plate at Yankee Stadium)






TOM JONES, Senior Principal, Populous

The scale of the Super Bowl needs to be experienced, to be fully appreciated. It includes a full-blown concert that is effectively set-up, delivered and then cleared away during 25 minutes of frantic activity.


Four time Superbowl Winners, Buffalo Bills at their home stadium, Buffalo, Texas

It was fascinating to be able to work with our event team on NFL events in both the USA and London, the ambition for the London matches continues to grow each year.  One of my first observations was just how much the stadium has to cope with during a Super Bowl, all of the inter-connected activity that takes place simultaneously throughout the event

There is a large focus on pre-game activity in fan-zones outside of the main stadium, fans are encouraged to make it a whole day out. The half-time show is an incredibly well-drilled event, requiring a large service area so people and equipment can be quickly moved in and out of position.  The audio-visual presentation within the bowl and around the stadium concourses is highly developed, adding to the excitement of the match itself.


TOM JONES, Senior Principal, Populous

Stadiums have a large sphere of influence. Driven by the crowds that gather on a regular basis for events they can spread value, diversity and vibrancy throughout the fabric of a city.

An excited crowd atmosphere at Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

 Stadiums have the ability to transform the economic profile of areas that have fallen into decay, acting as catalysts for wider urban regeneration.  There had been a trend for stadia to move to out-of-town developments, having not been seen as complementary to urban life, but the reality is that they often seem ‘lost’ in these peripheral locations.  The Principality Stadium in Cardiff is a great example of a large stadium that sits comfortably at the heart of a capital city, adding culture that benefits the local businesses and communities.

London has seen many recent examples of stadium developments located in urban areas, close to public transport, with the aim of driving wider regeneration. It is important that stadia within cities also look to activate their spaces and facilities on non-match days. A club and its community are constantly interacting and influencing each other. The presence of a club has a strong impact on the physical development of an area, at the same time the club is shaped by its local surroundings.


TOM JONES, Senior Principal, Populous

The history and heritage of a club and its location within the community are key factors within our design process.

Tottenham face Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, Wembley Stadium, London

Every club has its own unique roots and heritage and it is important that as designers we understand this, looking at their aims and aspirations for the future. At Tottenham, we are designing a new stadium that overlaps with the existing White Hart Lane. This means finding ways the new Stadium can incorporate aspects of the history of the club and still provide a new home for future generations of Spurs players and fans.

Currently I am excited about the work on the new Tottenham project. We have been challenged to redefine the stadium experience for both players and spectators. The introduction of the new sliding pitch will provide the ideal natural grass surface for football, while still offering the perfect artificial turf surface beneath it for the NFL matches. The 17,500 capacity single-tier stand will also present Tottenham with an amazing home-end, driving the atmosphere in the stadium and the fan experience.



In order for a stadium to leave a long and lasting legacy, it needs to be able to deliver three key elements:

  1. 1

    Athletes need facilities and surfaces that enable them to perform at the peak of their abilities and reach new levels of performance.

    Lord Coe made this the primary focus for our work on the London Olympic Stadium and it was heartening to see the results as athletes broke world records and set personal bests.

  2. 2

    Spectators need to leave with long and lasting memories of great sporting endeavour and achievement. 

    There has to be something special in the live experience that continues to attract spectators to return on a regular basis, which in turn will help to develop future generations of fans who will keep the stadium thriving in the longer term.

  3. 3

    Neighbours need to see a stadium as a good neighbour that makes a positive contribution to their daily lives.

    The introduction of new facilities that complement, rather than compete with local businesses, can deliver a positive outcome where a stadium drives economic development and local employment.

As the popularity of live sports events grows there are sure to be new challenges for architects, planners and designers across the globe. Knowing that both the the live sporting experience, and also the wider social impacts of a stadium project, are in the hands of such dedicated and conscientious individuals is a great feeling for sports fans and stadium neighbours alike.


Populous is a global architecture and design firm. It has been involved in iconic sporting arenas and events from the Yankee Stadium to the London Olympics and the Super Bowl. Over the last 30 years, the firm has designed more than 2,000 projects worth $40 billion across emerging and established markets. Populous’ comprehensive services include architecture, interior design, event planning and overlay, branded environments, way-finding and graphics, planning and urban design, landscape architecture, aviation and transport design, hotels and hospitality, and sustainable design consulting. Populous has 17 offices on four continents with regional centers in Kansas City, London and Brisbane.