Pitchside Potential and Seating Sightlines
Football Focus is thrilled to introduce Arena Group’s Dave Withey as a regular guest contributor on all things related to the development and improvement of football club’s seating infrastructure.
Dave’s career began forty years ago with Arena Seating, Arena Group’s division specialising in the sale and rental of permanent and temporary seating for sporting events and venues of all sizes. As one of the most respected figures in the UK’s production industry, he has been integral to growing the six-strong team back in 1977 to becoming a global player with over 250 specialist sporting and event infrastructure experts today.
Across four decades he has worked on every aspect of sports seating, from permanent premiership football and rugby stadia to tiny non-league grandstands, to the installation of the award winning temporary 15,000 capacity Horse Guards Parade’s temporary Beach Volleyball London 2012 Olympic stadium.
Today we chat to him about the considerations football clubs of all levels need to improve facilities and spectator experiences.
Could you tell us a little more about the different types of seating available?
Arena Seating has a track record of over 50 years working with a vast range of sporting clients, including over 200 football clubs, so we have fine-tuned and developed our portfolio of temporary and permanent seating products and services to suit all ranges of budgets and needs.
Recognising a growing trend in stadiums looking for ways to create a premium fan experience our in-house CAD designers and structural engineers and project managers develop best value concepts on behalf of clients. At the top level we can look at a project managing a complete stadium refurbishment, or if clubs are extending their capacities, refurbishing a single stand / part of the ground, or upgrading spectator facilities; we will recommend the appropriate seats and grandstand infrastructure.
Our clearview™ seating system is our most popular cost-effective premium level product, available for sale or rental, this product is increasingly being utilised with bespoke sub-structures by sporting venues looking for a reconfigurable and modular seating system which offers every football spectator the perfect view from every seat in the stadium. Obviously seats come in ranges of colours to suit the club and with padded variations for VIP and coaches areas. We then have a range that goes down to our pre-fabricated Sports Stands that are very economical and quick to install at smaller clubs or training grounds.
Does the size of venue affect the type of seating required?
The venue and setting will strongly influence the choice of seating. Rather than the seats themselves being affected it is the associated grandstand design. We design and install grandstands including broadcast studios, camera platforms, hospitality facilities, public, bars, catering concessions, retail units and toilets. Space and other existing facilities will steer our need to include these built into the undercrofts.
The space / size of the ground was the main challenge when we redeveloped the seating at Fulham’s Craven Cottage. They approached us to transform the old-fashioned, run-down stadium suffering from years of under-investment, into a code-compliant, 22,000 seated facility for the first game of the 04/05 Premiership season. Throughout a seven year, £2.75million project, the seating system has been progressively upgraded to the club’s current Championship season 25,700 capacity, all whilst minimising the need for permanent concrete construction. Strict planning regulations limit the height we could go to and with roads and The Thames preventing expanding the footprint we had to be imaginative to engineer raked tiers that optimised the capacity, and thereby revenue generation, possible to the club.
On a smaller scale, Swansea City FC required improved training ground facilities to allow the increased fan base to support upcoming talent at training matches and events. Designed to fit between the existing floodlights around the pitch, three grandstands were installed, housing 501 tiered tip-up seats in the club’s colours, also allowing space for up to 6 wheelchair users. Most recently, we installed 438 tiered seats into three new stands at Leicester City’s Holmes Park, now the official home venue of the club’s under-23s development squad.
Location is not a challenge, we can deliver cost-effective seating solutions to large scale events the world over. 18,000 clearview™ seats were installed in two demountable grandstands of Arena de Sao Paulo’s North and South stands, the largest ever temporary structure built in Brazil for the World Cup 2014. Both grandstands stood at 102m wide and 30m high, each with 54 rows of seats, offering football fans unparalleled views of the momentous sporting event.
What impact can seating have on the atmosphere at a stadium?
The seating product itself is unlikely to have an impact on stadium atmosphere, however the proximity of the fans to the pitch itself plays a huge part. When stadium seating is situated right up close to the pitch it helps to create an intimate, electric atmosphere, whereas large stadiums tend to be further back, detaching fans more from the action. In addition to this, the steeper the rake angle gives fans the feeling of being immersed in the gameplay below. Our stadium seating stands can be designed and tailored to the grounds’ specific requirements and to give the fans the best possible match day experience.
What are the main considerations clubs should be aware of when considering new seating?
With so many variables to consider, from budget to design and aesthetics to timing, the starting point should be to talk to us. A club can save a lot of time and money by engaging us before they go down the permanent construction route – or at least get us in early if the architects are appointed. Make use of the expertise at your disposal, with our knowledge of the latest technology available coupled with a 50 year heritage of stadium and events projects, I’d like to think we can add a lot of value to a club. Gone are the days when the only option to expand stadium capacity was to put in a permanent, concrete fixed seating structure, so I’d recommend not jumping to the conclusion that it’s still the only way forward. Be forward-thinking and look to cheaper, more flexible, quicker to install modular options that provide the same high-quality end result; all without the need for bringing in permanent construction solutions.
What are the main safety issues that need to be taken into account?
All of our products and stadium plans are designed and installed conforming to the Green Guide Safety at Sports Grounds 5th Edition and Football Licensing Authority safety regulations. These incorporate everything from ensuring that all guidelines for ingress / egress, accessibility, evacuation times, stairways, gangways, travel distances, load bearing capacities are all adhered to. During our build phase we work to stringent regulations and higher health, safety and logistics standards required by the nature of the construction.
How can clubs ensure they are getting the most cost-effective solution to their requirements?
By using a company like Arena Seating not only are you benefitting from a trusted range of seating products available, you also have the expertise of our 80 in-house seating professionals, CAD designers and engineers at your fingertips. Our dedicated specialists can provide options for all seating requirements from additional seats for one-off events through to a complete stadium seating upgrade, or very cost-effective stands at training grounds.
Football stadiums can enjoy ground expansions, training ground improvements and kit hire thanks to the grants available from the Football Foundation, offered when the club match the remaining half of the costs. All our products have Football Foundation grants as a possible funding partner,
Is there anyone clubs can contact if they are looking for more information?