The Wembley Stadium project scores with the support of cheering fans

4 June 2013
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It’s Saturday!  It’s time again for German fans to ramp up for one of the greatest soccer matches taking place at the legendary Wembley Stadium. In the upcoming Champions League final, the two top German teams FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund compete against each other on the hallowed turf of the English landmark,  home of the English national football team.

What the Eiffel Tower  is to the French, the Wembley Stadium is to the English. As the former Brazilian footballer Pelé once noted, “Wembley is not only ‘the church’ of football, but also the ‘capital and the heart’ of football.” A stadium whose history dates back to 1923, Wembley has experienced decades of glory  from the time when England’s national football team made history in 1966 to its relatively recent reincarnation during its reconstruction project of 2007.

The Wembley Stadium is a classic example of how great events can transform projects built for function into historical landmarks that define the society who were responsible for their creation.

The Vision

To mark the occasion of the  1924 “British Empire Exhibition,” England needed a correspondingly impressive stadium to reflect Britain’s former status as a colonial power.  Following the exhibition, the exhibition halls, as well as the newly constructed stadium were slated for demolition.  In light of its illustrious history, the vision for the Wembley stadium represented by the people and country instrumental in its landmark status has proven that the people behind the project are key in determining its fate.

Execution

Under the supervision of the architects Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayerton, and the chief engineer Sir Owen Williams, the construction of the Empire Pool began in 1922. After 300 days of construction, well before the start of the exhibition the newly constructed stadium opened its doors for the first time on April 28th, 1923. The construction costs amounted to approximately 750,000 pounds. The final construction resulting with two twin towers and the 39 steps that led to the “Royal Box”, in which winners would receive their trophies, would be forever linked to the Wembley Stadium reaching iconic status among the world’s famous landmarks.

After the exhibition it was Sir James Stevenson, the chairman of the organizing committee for the empire exhibition, who saved the stadium from demolition.  After the stadium ran into financial difficulties in the following years and was sold to Sir Arthur Elvin in 1963, the stadium was eventually equipped with an electric scoreboard and an all encircling roof, made from aluminum and translucent glass.  From an execution point of view, its first iteration was a success meeting its deadline to have its doors open before the exhibition.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of its most recent reincarnation in 2007.

The Result

After saving the stadium from demolition, Wembley was the venue for numerous sports competitions, including the 1948 Olympic Games, the 1966 Football World Cup, the 1966 European Championship, and it was also the home stadium of the English national football team. With the legendary “Wembley Goal” made famous by the stadium, it finally reached its iconic status as we know it today.  In the following years Wembley became known as a major venue hosting concerts for famous entertainment acts, including Elton John, Madonna and Michael Jackson (just to name a few).

By October 2000, the Wembley Arena closed its doors.  In 2003, its demolition took place and redevelopment began the following year.  The project costs were estimated at approximately 326 million pounds, however by the conclusion of contract negotiations the planned costs had already increased to 445 million pounds.  Due to the financial miscalculation of the construction company Multiplex Group, the actual construction costs of the stadium reached more than 800 million pounds. In March 2007, the new stadium finally opened its doors 10 months later than the planned date.  In the end, the total cost of the project was finally estimated to be 1 billion pounds.  Although it would seem from a both a timeline and financial point of view the 2007 Wembley project failed, the fact is the stadium remains an icon for global events proving a project success should not only be based on project execution in itself, but can also be defined by the loyal stakeholders it serves.

Fun fact

Did you know that Wembley Stadium has 2618 toilets, 34 bars, 688 snack bars and 250 different types of grass?

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