Tottenham: A glimpse inside Spurs’ new £1bn state-of-the-art stadium

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Tottenham: A glimpse inside Spurs’ new £1bn state-of-the-art stadium
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: BBC Sport takes a look inside

It has cost £1bn. It has arrived more than six months late. But even the sun joined Mauricio Pochettino and 30,000 fans in coming out at their new stadium to ‘Welcome Spurs Home’.

Fittingly, J’Neil Bennett, brought up in Camden, six miles away, scored the first goal. At half-time Pochettino came down from his seat, next to chairman Daniel Levy in the directors’ box, to say the occasion made him feel like crying and gave a short speech, sounding very much like a man who will be here next season too.

There were some minor teething problems. Not all the 1,800 high-definition televisions worked, for instance. This is nothing to stress over. Tottenham are back.

There was a 3-1 win for the Under-18s over Southampton on Sunday. Inter Milan will visit for a legends game next Saturday. Then Pochettino will be in the dug-out as Spurs take on Crystal Palace in the Premier League on 3 April and Manchester City in the Champions League six days later.

“It is unbelievable,” he said, surveying the scene. “I have the same feeling as the last day at White Hart Lane, when we were crying. The first day here is the same emotion. Our dream has come true.”

Pochettino thanked Levy and the Tottenham board for their vision. He thanked the fans for their patience.

In truth, he has needed both during a tortuous process that Tottenham were not expecting last summer when they believed Liverpool would be the first visitors in September.

Pochettino is confident Spurs will hit the ground running.

“This is one of the best stadiums in the world and I hope, and wish, the future of this club will be fantastic,” he said.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as it will be called until the club concludes a naming rights deal

“We had all the problems but now all the effort has paid off and it can have a massive impact on players.

“We are in a very good place in the Premier League and while we have a massive challenge in the Champions League, with 62,000 here behind us, it will be fantastic to play in it. It is our dream to be in the semi-final. Why not?”

Tottenham have not been shy in proclaiming their new stadium to be the best. With a capacity of 62,062, it is the biggest club ground in London and second only to Manchester United’s Old Trafford in the Premier League.

But whereas Old Trafford, which reached its present capacity in 2007, is looking a bit frayed around the edges, the wonderful Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as it will be called until the club concludes a naming rights deal, is state of the art.

Indeed, it mixes the best of the sports it has been built to host. It has the NFL’s comfort, sight lines and numerous food outlets – plus the biggest stadium screens in Europe at 325 sq m. It also has the atmospheric seating arrangements of a typical Premier League ground.

No front-row seat is more than eight metres from the touchline and the acoustics have been taken into account during construction to ensure the atmosphere is as good as it can be.

On a beautiful sunny afternoon, even the half-hour walk from Seven Sisters tube station up Tottenham High Road to White Hart Lane is a pleasure.

It might not be as picturesque as Putney Bridge to Craven Cottage but with its cosmopolitan mix of greengrocers, clothes shops, kebab shops and old-school pubs, it is a hive of activity.

On Sunday, though, there was an additional verve. Families marched north with an extra spring in their step, individual fans stopped regularly to mark each stage of the journey with another picture to do justice to the occasion, groups of lads talked about the Champions League quarter-final draw and the forthcoming first-leg tie against City: “I wish we’d got Porto or United instead.”

It felt very much like the first day of the season, when optimism abounds and everyone is keen to get started.

Underneath the grass pitch is an artificial surface that will be used for NFL games

When the stadium’s 115 turnstiles were put to use for the first time at 13:00 GMT, there were hundreds in the queues, eager to get their tickets scanned, wanting to get their first glimpse of their new home.

The process was not a quick one, but they had been warned of that.

With test events, the clue is in the title. Everything has to be done thoroughly to make sure it works, so only handfuls of fans were let through at one go to climb the steps on the outside of the stadium to get to the concourses and their seats inside.

The eager will have ignored the kiosks and the toilet facilities and headed straight into the stadium bowl.

Anyone lucky enough to have been to Lincoln Financial Fields, home to the Philadelphia Eagles NFL franchise, would probably see a similarity.

Yet unlike that stadium, this one is completely covered. And unlike that one, underneath the grass pitch here is an artificial surface that will be used for NFL games. The process, which involves the grass pitch being lifted and stored in a ‘garage’ for up to 10 days, is a feat of engineering. The surface can slide out in three sections simultaneously in just 25 minutes.

The South Stand, which holds 17,500 seats, is more than 34 metres high. That is around a third of the size of Big Ben and about the same as the BBC’s Broadcasting House building in central London.

A Tottenham staff member climbed to the top. “If you need to know,” he gasped, “it was 223 steps. I was knackered.” If he had gone up and down four times it would be the equivalent of climbing to the top of the Empire State Building in New York.

In the concourses, there are 65 food and drink outlets, although, be warned, the stadium is cashless and, today, the one I went to had run out of pies an hour before kick-off.

Plastic straws have been eliminated, recycling bins introduced. On the walls there are heritage plaques, including one of the centre circle at White Hart Lane, and pictures of the club’s heroes.

There are 65 food and drink outlets in the concourses but the stadium is cashless

For those who can afford it, there are 8,000 premium seats. The stadium has its own microbrewery which produces craft beer.

Underlining the extent to which Tottenham want to embrace an inclusive fan base, there are 265 wheelchair bays, areas for assistance dogs and three changing places for supporters with “complex care requirements”.

For thinking of this, and doing something about it, Tottenham are to be applauded.

There is wi-fi – although, as with every other similar-sized stadium, trying to get a signal when it is full will probably not be a straightforward task.

And, as with the groundsman who would really prefer players not to be on his pristine pitch, the sight of a fan accidently tipping his beer on to the floor underlined the reality that nothing stays new for long once people are introduced.

That is for the future, though.

Today, the sun shone, the stadium opened and 17-year-old J’Neil Bennett has a memory that will last forever.

Spurs are home.

The Goal Line Bar gives fans a chance to quench their thirst
Plastic straws have been eliminated and recycling bins introduced in the food and drink outlets
The dugout where Pochettino will watch matches from
There are 8,000 premium seats for those who can afford them
Harry Kane features on the glass exterior
A glimpse of what awaits fans inside
The Market Place is one of the many food outlets in the new stadium

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